Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the Solemnity of All Saints. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12
The Solemnity of All Saints
All Saint’s Day is that Holy Day of the Catholic Church when we commemorate all of our holy brothers and sisters in the Church Triumphant, those known and unknown to us. It is so wonderful and beneficial to know that we have friends in Heaven who are willing to assist us along the same journey that they, too, processed. The prayers of the Church Glorified are so efficacious because each of them can identify with us most uniquely. They have walked in our shoes; they know our trials, sufferings, and temptations. Therefore, we call on them in trust to intercede for us in prayer and to carry our petitions to the throne of God.
In today’s First Reading from Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14, the servant John received a vision of the Holy Mass across the span of centuries where he saw “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.” It is clear here that vision that John was given a Palm Sunday Mass, with the faithful holding out palm branches during the procession. The text then says they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” In this next part of his vision, it sounds like the servant John heard the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, which would have not been heard during Lent, but sang aloud on Easter Sunday.
At the end of this portion of John’s vision, he says one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” John replied, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” The elder then told him, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” This vision of the holy and pure saints in Heaven that the servant John saw is a fulfillment of what is written in today’s Second Reading from First John 3:1-3: “We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.”
I believe that the words Tertullian in his Apology (197 A.D.) offer a powerful image of the time our saints spent on earth during these periods of great distress:
“Crucify us, torture us, condemn us, destroy us! Your wickedness is the proof of our innocence, for which reason does God suffer us to suffer this. When recently you condemned a Christian maiden to a panderer rather than to a panther, you realized and confessed openly that with us a stain on our purity is regarded as more dreadful than any punishment and worse than death. Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, accomplish anything: rather, it is an enticement to our religion. The more we are hewn down by you, the more numerous do we become. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”
The clearest path to sainthood offered through the Synoptic Gospels is the one we have by Christ our Lord in today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew 5:1-12. The nine beatitudes are, truly, nine opportunities of grace that we have to attach our mind, body, and soul to the sacred heart of Christ Jesus, and when these nine opportunities are practiced consistently, they become our supernatural behaviors and our eternal light up that narrow way to Mount Calvary where we will die in Christ, be buried in Christ, and rise in Christ.
The liturgy of the Holy Mass not only offers us a perfect path to process our pilgrimage to Calvary but with the hosts of angels and the communion saints gathered around our sacred space as we adore Him and consume Him, the Mass shows a foreshadowing of what Heaven will be like when we see Christ in His full glory, raised high on His throne. In gathering all of God’s People from every nation, race, people, and tongue to offer Him worship from the rising of the sun until its setting, the Catholic Church shows us what Heaven will look like.
The saints of our faith all began their procession to the throne of God in the same place where we are processing today. They, too, participated in the liturgy of the Mass, sat in our pews, knelt on our floors, listened to the readings, prayed and confessed in union with the universal Church, and received the Holy Eucharist. Today, on this Solemnity, we rejoice that they kept the faith and finished their race, and we ask them to pray for us that we, too, might have the grace to complete our own course.
This is just one way the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us on how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.