There is a saying that ‘saints come in all shapes and sizes’ and this is true in so many different ways since quite a few of them break the stereotype of what we expect a holy man or woman to be. My favourite example is St Thomas Aquinas. Tradition has it that he did not “look” ascetic or saintly and that he was so “chubby”, a little bit of the dining table had to be cut out to accommodate his tummy. He was considered rebellious, argumentative and even implicitly condemned by the Archbishop of Paris but fifty years after his death, Pope John XXII declared him a saint, and in 1567 he was declared a Doctor of the Church. Saints certainly do come in all shapes, sizes and even temperaments.
Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day – a day to honour all the saints from Christian history. We celebrate this day simply because there is a connection and communion between those in Heaven and on earth. The communion of saints is neither a myth nor any superstitious belief The communion of saints is an integral part of our creed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself (#957). There is a connection to the saints that brings us closer to Christ because the saints are not ends in themselves but a means to Jesus, our Saviour.
The gospel today presents the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) which encapsulates the Law of the New Covenant. It presents to us a collection of Jesus’ teaching on Christian living. One could say that the Beatitudes is the perfection of the Old Law found in the Ten Commandments. The virtues presented in the Beatitudes speak not only about promises that one will enjoy in the life after but it points more concretely also to the life in the here and now. In fact, the Beatitudes ‘are a self-portrait of Jesus Christ, a picture of the lives of the saints, and a blueprint for how we should live out our friendship with Christ’.
On the solemnity of All Saints, the beatitudes present to us the most direct path toward happiness and holiness, but yet holiness and happiness also come in different shapes and sizes, given that we are all uniquely different. We, like St Thomas Aquinas, may not look the part of the saint but our baptism makes us holy and our journey here on earth is our pathway towards happiness. These are not two separate paths but one and the same. In speaking of the beatitudes, Pope Francis said, “It’s a path that’s difficult to understand because it goes against the current [of the world], but the Lord tells us that whoever goes down this road is happy — that, sooner or later, they become happy.”
The pathway to sainthood is not reserved to a few or those who can play the part, or only a privilege for a few. In fact it is open to all of us and the saints whom we celebrate today bear testimony to that. The reason why we celebrate them today is because they who have gone before us into heaven accompany us on our own earthly journey, encouraging us to go forward, and inspiring us when we fail or fall. In the words of St Augustine, “There is no saint without a past, and no sinner without a future.”
Though we may take varied paths, let us seek to converge in Jesus Christ for He is our source of happiness and holiness, here and in the life after. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’
All Saints’ Day (1 Nov 2020)