On this joyful festival of All Saints, we raise our minds and hearts to Heaven. Today’s first reading tells us what we can see there: “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” They are standing “before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes…” They are in the presence of God, praising him in song. How did they get there? It is a question we ask not only about the saints who are already in Heaven, but about ourselves too: How can we join this great multitude? We cannot purify ourselves and yet we need to be pure, clean of heart, in order to see God, to be in his presence. The reading from Revelation goes on to tell us, “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.”
The purification we need is a process that requires perseverance through a “time of great distress.” Pope Francis gives us insight into this process in his Spiritual Reflection. He says that the saints “fought to remove the stains and the darkness of sin, so as to enable the gentle light of God to pass through.” Their journey in this life was not one of consolations and joy only. It was also one of challenges and desolation; it was one of cooperation with Christ’s purifying love. They lived in obedience to his divine will, dying to self and being led by the Holy Spirit.
There are many aspects of the purifying process: accepting contradictions and disappointments throughout life; mourning the loss of loved ones and seeing some of them go astray; accepting our own limitations, our lack of power and influence, and thus acquiring meekness; battling injustices and hungering for righteousness; being merciful to the least among us and the most difficult among us; frequent Confession to keep our heart clean; promoting peace when division runs rampant; being insulted and persecuted for following the teachings of Holy Mother Church and living a life counter to the culture of the day – in sum, the way to holiness is to live by the program Jesus teaches us in the Beatitudes.
Why go through all these difficulties? Our Theme for this week, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, answers this succinctly and beautifully: “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024). Pope Francis confirms this when he says, “Happiness is not in having something or in becoming someone, no. True happiness is being with the Lord and living for love.” Because we are children of God, our home is Heaven. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God,” the Gospel reminds us. This vision of God, the beatific vision, is our hope. This is the goal of all our work in this life, and it is God’s desire for each and every one of us! In God’s great mercy and love for us he provides us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Eph 1:3) to make this a reality.
Today’s Solemnity and Pope Francis remind us that it is attainable: “The saints are our brothers and sisters who have welcomed the light of God in their heart and have passed it on to the world, each according to his or her own ‘hue.’” Let us cooperate with God’s grace so that he can make us holy, thus adding to this kaleidoscope of color and reflecting the beauty of God to a world in great need of it.
Like the saints, am I striving to be obedient to God’s will, dying to self and being led by the Spirit? Am I living the words of Pope Francis, “true happiness is being with the Lord and living in love”? In what ways can living the Beatitudes lead me on the road to holiness?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 8. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.