Our readings today give a wonderful panoramic view of the heavenly feast to be celebrated for the triumph of the Lamb, the beloved Son of God, and for the glorious establishment of the Kingdom of God.
While the first reading told of a great multitude -- from every nation, race, people and tongue – to be found at that celebration, the Gospel reading told us that people of all sorts would be at home there including the poor and humble in spirit, the meek and clean of heart, and those tried and tested by the flail of long sorrow or the bitterness of persecution and insult. And yet, all to be found there are -- amazingly enough -- merciful and peacemakers in their hunger and thirst for true righteousness.
Jesus did indeed die for all mankind and -- as the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- He is the one supreme and sublime Model for each and every human individual in that great multitude who find themselves at supper rejoicing as individual and unique reflections of the myriad aspects of the plenitude of Jesus’ glorious humanity, all so different and yet all so complementary, because Jesus’ love of His Father and mankind is truly expressed through, and in, all of them.
Who are these Saints? We admire and celebrate, know and thank God for so many of them, and yet, there are many, many more, who are not known to us. And today Mother Church wants us to celebrate more particularly all those UNKNOWN Saints now in heaven: those of whom we know nothing and from whom therefore, we can – hopefully -- fear (!) nothing. Their lives have not been examined and found worthy by any Church tribunal, and we do not know what specific virtues they practised other than Faith, Hope, and Charity. There is, indeed, absolutely nothing concerning them about which we can say, ‘That’s beyond me; I couldn’t do that!’ and so today, Mother Church is inviting us to recognize, and rejoice in, a family where YOU AND I, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US could quite easily find encouraging and uplifting friends, not the great and glorious who might overwhelm us, none so beautiful and good as to – though unwittingly – put us to shame. We are the weak ones and today Mother Church is embracing (but most certainly not indulging!) and emboldening our weakness by showing us a family that is truly heavenly indeed, yet one into which we (a future and somewhat improved version of course!) might easily fit in and find both home and fulfilment there. Today we are celebrating saints who didn’t have to be seen, recognized, and approved as such by men -- even fellow Christians and holy people -- saints of whom all we know is that GOD FORMED THEM and that they allowed Him to do so because it was what they wanted in the depths their heart. How He did it? Of that they were, probably, almost totally unaware and largely unconscious throughout their lives; nevertheless, we can be quite sure that God was able to do it with them because of their constant personal-and-loving communion with Him in humble obedience and their trustful and selfless commitment to Him in their myriad duties and numerous trials.
Therefore, as we continue, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope you will find some comfort and a measure of inspiration from the realization that today we are, with good reason, rejoicing that we can humbly and seriously think of, and most gratefully imagine: ourselves at home in and among this ‘great multitude’.
People of God, you know that all of us, through faith and baptism, are already, as John said in the second reading, called and regarded – not just by the inspired apostle himself but what is even more by the universal and infallible Church -- as children of God:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us, that we may be called the children of God! Yet so we are!
“Called and are the children of God”… such great proof of His love the Father has given us: surely, we not only can, we should, and indeed we must, have total confidence in Him! That is what John wants to instil into our hearts and minds as we ponder ever anew those words of his:
What love the Father has bestowed on us!!
Of course, while we are still in this world we will experience the troubles of the world; indeed, as John said, we are likely to experience more trouble in some respects, since:
The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.
While that did not trouble John, for he could surely say, along with St. Paul:
For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21);
nevertheless, for many Christians and Catholics today the fact that our modern society still does not acknowledge Jesus, that our faith is mocked, our practices ridiculed, our teaching contested and even openly rejected, that does trouble them. However, if such ‘trouble’ is due to a sincere and deep love for the Church and a prayerful concern for her well-being, not only is it both understandable and admirable, but, what is yet more, it can and will, surely, give rise to prayer which is most acceptable to God.
St. John, however, also wishes to strengthen us against concerns for self which can easily sneak into our psyche and may lead us to make compromises with the world which would be totally unworthy of a child of God:
Beloved, we are God’s children now, what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We know that, when He appears, 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 John 3:2-3)
We are now children of God and should be proud and grateful for such a wonderful privilege. Now children trust, and that is what John wants to urge upon us when he tells us that what we shall be —what God wants us to be -- has not yet been revealed. We have received, John says, a wonderful proof of God’s love for us by allowing us to be called His children; and the reason we can be called God’s children is because we have faith in God’s Son Who died and rose again for us; and we hope in His Spirit, given us in and through the Church and now at work forming us, personally, in the likeness of Jesus with love for the Father. There is nothing for us to bring about by our own endeavours for it has not yet been revealed what we shall be; we know just this one stupendous fact, we are God’s children now and should behave as such by loving and trusting Him Who is Our Father… and Who, as our Father, is concerned with forming us as His children, that is, in the likeness of His only-begotten Son so that when Jesus comes again in divine glory to establish the definitive Kingdom of God, then, amazingly -- that is, by the amazing grace and goodness of God -- we shall be found like Him, able to share in Him and with Him in His heavenly glory. Let this hope rule in your hearts and minds, John urges:
Everyone who has this hope based on Jesus (Who gives us His Spirit) makes himself pure as He (Jesus) is pure.
That hope of ultimately sharing with all the saints we are celebrating this day in the glory of Jesus as members of His Body, and being eternally blessed with them as children of the heavenly Father … that hope based on the stupendous power of the Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead and Whom Jesus has bequeathed us in Mother Church … that hope which has made Mary Queen of heaven above all angels and archangels … that most sure and consuming hope John says will protect and purify us from our human weakness and personal sinfulness, and from the evil of the world which will not accept us because it would not acknowledge Jesus.
People of God, today’s celebration is a call from Mother Church to renew our Christian and Catholic hope; it is a reminder that our life on earth can be transfigured into a training that will prepare us to participate in an eternal experience of divine beauty, truth, and love before God; something of which we are neither capable nor worthy at present, but which has been most surely promised to all who remain faithful in their love of Jesus:
Rejoice in the Lord always, again, rejoice. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)