But who are these saints? We know of those whose feast or memory we celebrate during the liturgical year, but those are just a few who have been canonised, that is they have been officially recognized by the Church. On All Saints’ Day we celebrate the rest of the saints.
They are those who made of the Beatitudes their programme of living: the gentle and the merciful, the pure of heart, those who mourn, the peacemakers, those who thirsted for what is right and just, those who were persecuted in the cause of right and the poor in spirit. These might be people we have known, some old relative of ours or even our neighbours. These are the people who were always there for others, no matter what, and for whom nothing was too much trouble.
This feast instills in us hope. It tells us that heaven is not reserved for the few, but it is a place which is full of people, men and women who on earth, as the Church, were united in faith, hope and love. Hope is trust in God’s merciful love and goodness.
It also instills in us faith in God’s forgiveness. Heaven is full of sinners who have repented. Jesus himself referred to it in the gospel when he told the Pharisees that the prostitutes and public sinners are ahead of them on their way to heaven.
Heaven is full of the people who the Gospel refer to as “the poor”. They are those who quielty trust in God, whatever may happen, whether it’s war or famine or disease. It is full of those who show love to neighbour no matter what colour is their skin or what legal status they have, no matter what religious or political belief they embrace. I imagine that heaven is full of those who stood by those who were suffering or mourning even in the little things, like giving them a cup of coffee.
It is full of the ordinary and normal people who were able to love their neighbour as themselves. And the neighbour might be not only the one who lives next to you or with whom you are on good terms. Your neighbour might also be someone whom you cannot stand or against whom you bear a grudge. Your neighbour might be that Afghani or Somali or other immigrant who is looking for a safe country to live in.
The saints are those who dare to live out the fully human life. They are in love with God, our creator, and like God, in whose image we were all created, they love. Their love of God motivates them to love others unconditionally as God does, without expecting any reward.
The saint could be you and me.