All Saints’ Day
Each year when All Saints’ Day is celebrated, I am drawn to reflect on the majesty, the power, and the promise expressed in the beautiful message so deftly hidden in the Transfiguration of Jesus. A contemporary hymn offers a connecting link with the words, “We behold the splendor of God shining on the Face of Jesus; we behold God’s splendor shining on the Face of the Son.” And when the disciples raised their eyes on Mount Tabor’s height, “they saw no one but Jesus alone.” Is this not the reality of All Saints’ Day? Is this not the fulfillment of a promise that challenges us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus? He alone is our refuge, our place of rest, the reward of a life focused on His Person, for the God-Man of the cross, the subtle eternity of the empty tomb, and the awesome realization of the Resurrection are the sacred elements that call us to discipleship and unwavering, steadfast love. This feast falls between the Transfiguration and All Souls’ Day. The latter reminds us of all whom we have loved in this world and who have gone before us into glory, those who have fallen asleep believing in the love of Christ Jesus. One day you and I will be transfigured, transformed, and we will move from glory to glory. This is the promise; this is the reward; this is the culmination of life, the empty vessel filled, our fragile human frame elevated beyond this earthly realm, and planted deep within the heart of a gentle Jesus Who calls us by name, to be saints.
Perhaps it is a denial of the universal call to holiness that is at work in the violence, the hatred, the ugly degradation so prevalent in our world; the atrocities committed against the splendid contradiction of the cross are a bitter renouncement of a compassionate God Who calls each of us to holiness. Saints, in contrast, have an unmistakable longing, a desire for closeness, for deep encounter and lasting friendship with the God Who loved us into being and whose faithfulness will welcome us to resurrected life.
Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us that “Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes, not His.” No doubt then, a Saint is one who has internalized and committed to action the words of Saint Theresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world; yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world; yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body, for Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” A Saint then is one who, despite frailty, failure, fear, or anything else that tends to separate, to divide, rather than unite, willingly says, “Yes, I accept Your challenge with all my heart, all my strength, through all the days that I might live.” In humility and silent awe, we greet the God Who dwells within. We find our God in one another, the God of all the races and the nations of the world. We touch our God whose wonder is reflected in the human and the creature, in the sunrise and the sunset, the flower and the star, in all that is, and all that is to come. That is living out our call to sainthood in whatever way it manifests itself in our person, not in another’s, but in OURS.
You and I are fragile pieces of the Master Plan with divinely ordered purpose nonetheless. We are the instrumental messengers, ambassadors of grace, faith-filled builders of a world enfleshed by the Person of our God. We have been empowered to carry His message to our time and to our place. What is the task that we must accomplish in this, our space and time? Ecclesiastes proclaims that "there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to reap." And yet, from birth to death, the message is quite clear, the mandate firm. The beginning and the end, the planting and the reaping occur in a reverent and sacred space, not to be measured, or squandered or wasted. Rather, it is a consecrated gift of service and of love. For at the end of a career or the end of life itself, the same pondered, poignant question marks the sunrise and the sunset of our days: "Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?" What marks the life of a Saint? I believe it is the beauty of a person fully alive with the love of God, always yielding to God’s Presence hidden deep within the tiny seed, manifested clearly in the vast expanse of Universe, well nurtured in the peaceful thoughts embedded in the human heart, totally committed to the well being of those we meet along the way, and always ready to kindle the spark of faith and hope and love.
When at last we stand on the opposite shore of this world, I pray that you and I will open our eyes and see no one but Jesus alone, and He will share with us His glory. If we have answered the call to discipleship, He will stand in the midst of our family and our friends, and we will hear Him gently whisper, “welcome home; you were called to Sainthood; you have answered the call; you have earned the reward of everlasting life.”
Sr. Anne Daniel Young, OP