TRIUMPH OR TRAGEDY
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14,
1 John 3:1-3,
“The only great tragedy in life is not to become a saint.” I remember hearing this quote of Leon Bloy from my religion teacher, Fr. Andrew Becnel, OSB, when I was in my teens. What a powerful truth! The only real and true triumph in life is to become a saint; the only real tragedy is not to become one. Today we celebrate the triumph of all the saints – not only those recognized and canonized by the Church but also, and especially, those who are in heaven but not officially canonized.
The Book of Revelation is filled with much rich symbolism. Today’s reading relates the “sealing” of God’s servants, numbering 144,000 from every tribe of Israel – a number signifying fullness or completeness. The very next sentence talks about “a huge crowd which no one could count” standing before the throne and the Lamb. Their cry is, “Salvation is from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb!”
In this glimpse of heavenly worship, angels, elders, and four living creatures fall down in adoration. The white-clad saints are described as “the ones who have survived the great period of trial; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This highlights the basic requirement for entering heaven: repenting of sin and accepting salvation in the Blood of Jesus.
Our gospel today is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount – the Beatitudes. Blest are the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the lowly or meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness. The Lord promises a reversal of their lot. Those who practice virtue shall be consoled and filled. Those who suffer for the Lord’s sake will be rewarded and vindicated. What a fitting gospel to describe the saints in heaven that we celebrate today!
FIRST LETTER OF JOHN
The second reading from the First Letter of John emphasizes that the love of God makes us children of God. It is God’s love, God’s grace that makes us saints, if only we accept it and allow it to work in us. The world does not recognize us just as it did not recognize Jesus. “We know that when it comes to light, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” This is our firm hope, and what a hope it is!
“PRAY TO BECOME A SAINT!”
Fr. Andrew – who also became my spiritual director – used to encourage me to do that. My suspicion is that most people are like me in that they don’t feel very much like saints! But it only makes sense to desire to be one and to pray for it – not because of our own goodness or virtue, but only because of the Lord’s love and grace.
I think of the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux and Mary’s Magnificat: “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” What better day than today to ask the Almighty to do great things in me and make me a saint!
All you holy men and women, saints of God, intercede for us!