ALL SAINTS SUNDAY -C - 16 LUKE 6: 20-31
The Feast of All Saints, then, was created to commemorate all the saints who gave their lives in defense of the faith once delivered, and later, the Church added the names of those who made a significant contribution to the life of the church in their respective generations. November 1, is the date of the Feast, and November 2 that of All Souls.
Traditionally the two are celebrated together on the Sunday following November 1. We submit the names of our loved ones and friends who have died in the faith to be remembered before God’s altar along with all the saints who have gone before us and who now stand in the greater presence of God.
All Saints Day is a Principal Feast of the Church and the only one that can be observed on the Sunday following November 1, in addition to its observance on the fixed date.
I doubt any of us consider ourselves “saints,” any more than those who were in the presence of Jesus, as he spoke to them in today’ gospel, including the disciples. The concept of a “saint” is not limited to the New Testament, but appears in the Old as well. It refers to those who remained faithful.
The scene of today’s gospel is a “level place,” according to Luke. Jesus has just come down from the mountain where he has chosen the 12. There is a large crowd waiting for him. They have come to hear him, see him, and touch him. They have come to be cured of their diseases and infirmities and to be exercised of their demons. Luke says Jesus healed them all.
At first glance, the sermon on the plane or level place as it is called, appears to be similar to that portion of Matthew’s gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount. There are indeed similarities, but Luke’s version is shorter in the number of “blessings” and in addition he adds four “woes” that are absent in Matthew.
The “blessings” are easy to relate to. Jesus speaks to those present, including his disciples, addressing those who are “now” poor, “now” hungry, who weep “now” and who are reviled, and defamed “now.” His promise is that all who endure these various situations in this life “now” will be rewarded in the life to come when the fullness of God’s kingdom is ushered in.
The “woes” together with the “blessings” represent the reversal of values in the fulfillment of the kingdom. The “woes” appear to condemn those who live their lives in contrast to the ones Jesus is blessing. But there is a way out for those who listen - Love. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
The Love Jesus speaks of here is of the kingdom, and not of this world. It is the Love of God we as his disciple are to practice; a love that extends to those who do not deserve it - our enemies, those who hate us, who curse us, and who abuse us. The way out of a life lived in contrast to Christ’ teaching is to Love as God loves us, for we do not deserve it either.
The example Luke gives of this love in action, which is also found in Matthew, is the giving of the “coat and shirt.” Our hope is to be found in our sacrificing our earthly blessings in showing mercy to others. To “do to others as you would have them do to you.”
The “Golden Rule” that concludes today’s gospel is a minimum of Christian virtue, as it places man’s desire for goodness, as a basic standard of how to treat others. It is but the first step on the path to the perfection of virtue. This perfection, Jesus commends in a verse or two following today’s passage, where God’s mercy, rather than man’s desire, is the standard.
The point is obvious that Christ’s flock is made up of individuals who go to extremes in self-suppression and joyful endurance of wrong, who let no ill treatment deter their faith, who are willing to sacrifice all that they have and all that they are to maintain their faith and trust in God, and who demonstrate God’s love towards all. The early Church called them Saints, as does St. Paul in today’s Epistle.
Paul writes to the Church at Ephesus encouraging the young Christians there to continue in their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love towards all the saints, for their inheritance is with the saints.
“I pray,” Paul writes, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe…”
To commemorate the memory of those “saints” we have known and loved, and who are now in the greater presence of God, along with those the Church remembers with a day on its calendar should inspire us, even urge us, to achieve fellowship with them.
As St. Bernard (12c) wrote our desire should be; “to take our place in the gathering of the Patriarchs and the ranks of the Prophets; to be at home in the assembly of the Apostles and in the numerous hosts of the martyrs; welcomed in the college of the confessors and the choirs of virgins;” in a word, to be united, not only with those we love, but in the Communion of All the Saints.
Can we see ourselves in this great company of the saints in light? Only when we have the “eyes of our hearts enlightened,” only then can we come to know what is the Hope of our calling. Pray that by God’s grace we may learn to follow their blessed example in all virtuous and godly living, so that we may come to those ineffable joys that God has prepared for those who truly Love him, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. AMEN+