The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30)
Today on the Sunday directly after the Feast of Pentecost we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. This is a commemoration of all the saints of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We celebrate them directly after the feast of Pentecost because it is only through the gift and the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers that they are transformed into more than just mere humans, into sanctified and glorified children of God. As we celebrate this feast we hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ for us,
“Everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father Who is in heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father Who is in heaven. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
These difficult verses give us a glimpse into what separates us from the saints, what makes the saints special. And what is it that makes the saints special people? Is it that they are quiet? Is it that they are more humble than others? Is it that they speak softly and do not get easily angered or annoyed? Is it that they make every effort to come to the church and worship the living God? In fact, none of these things are what make the saints special. These are all of the outward signs of what God has done to transform their hearts. The saints are those who have given their hearts fully to God.
Yet the Lord tells us that if you really want to be a saint, someone who is acknowledged by God the Father and will then also be acknowledged by the rest of the Church and its angels and saints and heavenly hosts. If you want to be a true saint, you have to acknowledge the Son of God openly with your life. In both your words and your deeds. St. John Chrysostom said,
““But why,” you object, “should I need to confess faith with my mouth if I confess faith in my mind?” No, we must confess with our mouths in order that we may be steadily trained to speak boldly. It is only through this more abundant love and determination that we will be raised on high. In this way Jesus addresses himself to each one of us personally. He is not here addressing his original disciples only but every one of us who follows after his disciples in accord with their witness to him. One who learns this lesson will teach it in boldness to others, prepared to suffer all things easily and with a ready mind. This is why so many have come to have faith in the witness of the apostles to this Word.”
St. John tells us that boldness of faith, vocal faith, is needed from Christians. This boldness of faith allowed the apostles to go boldly and preach even though it would cost them their lives. These days shameless and perverted people go around with diabolical agendas and sexual perversion and guess what? They do it boldly, with courage, and the world holds them up as heroes! Where is our courage my brothers and sisters? When was the last time that you mentioned Jesus Christ and His teaching in public? When was the last time that you even wore a cross in public? When was the last time that you prayed in public? Are you afraid of what others will think? Are you afraid to be labelled weird or strange? Are you afraid to be called a Christian?
Let me also be clear that I’m not suggesting that you should be bold on social media. That is not real boldness. It is better for you to be silent on social media (which fuels the ego) and be bold and courageous in person. If we are bold as lions, as children of the King, then we will not be timid with our faith and love for Jesus Christ or His teachings. When we love someone we move heaven and earth to let everyone know that we have this love. We go above and beyond not only to prove our love to our beloved, but in order to let others know about this love. When was the last time that you went out of your way to tell others of your love for Jesus Christ? We know for certain that our beloved Jesus Christ moved heaven and earth in order to demonstrate His love for each of us. His love for us was the very purpose of His life and it became the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
During this feast of All Saints we are reminded of our ultimate goals in life. We are reminded by the lives of the saints themselves. Whatever the saints are doing, this is our calling. Not one saint is identical to any other. Each one is unique and stunning, yet all are united by the Holy Spirit through the love of Christ. Read about them, study them, know them and love them.
As we study their lives we are reminded that everything in the life of a human being, even in the life of a saint passes away…everything except what we have dedicated to God and acquired through the practices of faith and love. Everything else fades away and is forgotten. Wealth, fame, popularity, health, power, trials and tribulations, all of these are counted as nothing by the saints. Why should that surprise us? Our Lord Himself owned nothing and suffered a shameful death as a common criminal. None of that mattered because the Lord and His saints didn’t put their hope and their trust in the world. They put their hope and trust in God and His kingdom. In the book of Revelation the angel shares these words with St. John,
“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” Rev 14:12-13 “Their works follow them.” If we died tomorrow would our works follow us or leave us behind? What would our works say about our love for Christ? We are reminded that the world is ultimately divided into two and only two camps. Those who love, obey and serve Jesus Christ and those who deny the Lordship of Christ and serve the demons. Who or what is the focus of your life? We know the focus in the lives of the saints is the Lord Jesus Christ and His body the Church. Through this focus the saints have found a place to safely gather and store treasure that won’t rust or fade or ever be stolen away. My friends, this treasure is offered to each one of you just as it was offered to each of the saints who were men and women just like us. The life and treasure of Christ was offered to each of them and they grabbed hold of this life.
I want to leave you with this beautiful quote from St Dimitri of Rostov who writes:
“The lives and praises of the saints are like the stars in brilliance. Because of their number, we do not know the names of all the saints; still, they amaze us by their radiant majesty, as do the stars, which while fixed in their position in the heavens, illumine all that is below… Similarly, the radiance of the saints, though their relics be entombed in sepulchers, is not bounded by the ends of this earth here below. Therefore, we marvel at their lives and are amazed at how God has glorified them that please Him.”
And may we also shine with them to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit AMEN.