All Saints: Witnesses Par Excellence
Today’s readings begin with two groups of people presented around the throne of God. This is from the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse. The first group consists in 144,000 people from every tribe of Israel. They are sealed by the angel as servants of God. 144,000 is not an arbitrary number. It is 12 x 12 x 1000. The two twelves refer to the patriarchs and the apostles. The 1000 simply means a large number, like forgiving one’s neighbor 70 x 7 does not mean limited forgiveness to 490, but having no limit to forgiveness. The important thing about the 144,000 is that these are the servants of God from the People of Israel.
The second group of people comes from places outside of Israel, from all the nations. Their number is beyond counting. Who are these people? The visionary is told that they are the ones who have washed their robes white in the Blood of the Lamb. Now, usually washing something in blood would leave a garment soiled, certainly not white. But the symbolism here is that these people gave witness to Christ, and paid for it dearly, with their lives. These people are martyrs.
Today, on the Feast of All Saints, we celebrate all the witnesses to Christ. Some of the Saints we are familiar with, such as the saints of our parish, St. Ignatius of Antioch, or a favorite saint like St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, St. Joseph, etc. Some of these saints we may not know much about, but may have been respected in past years, like St. Ubaldus, who I think is the patron of....well you figure it out. Some are declared saints by the Church, or canonized. Most of the saints, though, are people whose lives were so exemplary that they are untied to God in heaven even though they may not be canonized. All of the saints, though, are witnesses par excellence. There was nothing that would stop any of them from standing up for the Truth of Jesus Christ, whether they were threatened with torture and death, or the belittlement of the people of their times.
If we are to be like the saints, if we are to become saints ourselves, we need their prayers before God to give us the strength to join them as witnesses to Christ. All of us must continually make the choice of the Truth of the Lord in the face of the mockery and scorn of the large number of people who have no desire to have the Lord in their lives.
We are mocked because we do not get drunk. We are excluded from certain groups. But with the courage and prayers of the Christians who came before us we can hold out for the Truth of the Lord and become witnesses to Christ.
We are mocked and scorned because we do not join in with the immoral crowd that has removed physical relations from the commitment of marriage and sees sex as just a recreation instead of as a partnership with God in re-creating the world. We stand up for what is right and true. We depend on the Christians who came before us to pray that we have the courage to continue for the Lord. We can become witnesses to Christ.
We are laughed at because we don’t mess with drugs or steroids or anything that would alter our minds or bodies. We are told everyone is doing them and that we are only hurting ourselves by not joining in, but with the intercession of the Christians who came before us, we have the courage to stand up for our principles. We become witnesses for Christ.
And we also wash our baptismal robes white, we keep them white, by washing them in the blood of the Lamb of God. By choosing Christ, we choose the scorn of all who reject Him. That is the negative. The positive is that by choosing Christ we are choosing to be witnesses, to be martyrs, to be holy as He is Holy.
Today we pray to All of the Saints in heaven to give us the courage to join them in being witnesses to Jesus Christ.