I have always been struck by that phrase in the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer where we pray for “those whose faith is known to you alone.” Today is the Feast of All Saints. We remember all the saints of the Old and New Testament and all the saints of history, men and women, famous or forgotten, who are recognised as such by the universal Church, the “hundred and forty four thousand” as it were.
But then there is that “huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language”, who, according to the book of the Apocalypse, stand before God’s throne and worship him night and day in the joyful and victorious liturgy of heaven. Among them we find “those who have been through the great persecution and have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.”
It is six weeks now since Cardinal John Henry Newman was beatified. We have all been witnesses to how this was done and of the lengthy and complicated process that led up to his beatification. Obviously, that can only be an exception for the famous among the Church’s children. For most of us, it will be the good Lord alone who is aware of our sanctity. It is his gift after all!
Today we celebrate not only the known but the unknown, those, in fact “whose faith is known to you alone.” I derive great comfort from that, because there is room among the saints even for the insignificant and the mediocre, the weak and those for whom faith and faithfulness are a real struggle, in other words even for me and you. And that is the ultimate meaning of Christian hope. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.”
St John told us in the second reading, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are. We are already the children of God. All we know is, that when the future is revealed, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is.”
We are not easily convinced of God’s love. Creation, which reveals a God of love and beauty and life, also conceals the sinister presence of evil, destruction and death. Moreover, our faith is weak and we often feel unworthy, sinful, impure and guilty. Yet it is we whom God loves.
“God so loved the world … He did not send his only Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus came for one thing only, to save sinners, to save you and me. Not a sparrow falls to the ground but that God takes note. “Why, the very hairs of your head are counted!” It is easy to forget that the saints, too, were sinners, sometimes grave sinners, and that they, like us, were forgiven through the Cross of Jesus and saved by God’s grace, amazing grace indeed. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” those who recognise their need for God, for theirs alone is the Kingdom of Heaven. The saints encourage us to pray for conversion and to seek the grace of a new life in Christ.
At present the children of God are divided into the Church Militant, those of us still struggling here on Earth (and it’s not always easy, is it?), the Church Expectant, the souls in Purgatory being cleansed and prepared for Heaven, and the Church Triumphant, those who have made it and now sing God’s praises together with the angels in the sheer bliss of the beatific vision. But let us not forget. One day there will be only Heaven and there will be only Love, for God will be all in all.
Today, then, let us thank God for all the saints and thank him for calling us to be numbered among them. Let us also promise to do our best to respond to his love and, in all humility, to be content and grateful just to be one of those “whose faith is known to you alone.” Amen.