Solemnity of All Saints

Lectionary 667

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb."


In the light of today's feast and the first reading from the Book of Revelation, it's easy to understand how Christians of innumerable denominations, migrating from Europe, could hope to begin a new nation which would welcome every law-abiding person. They knew the doctrine of Original Sin, and that they and their children must practice their old faith even as they transferred and replanted institutions, customs and laws to a "new world." They had no illusions that there were no scoundrels among them.
The invention of a new nation would be an experiment in self-rule, without the out-moded, disruptive aristocracies of Europe. Even the churches should be self-governed without priests or popes. The "people" could decide what is best for themselves, so long as they kept the commandments and listened to the Spirit of God moving among them.
After 452 years of settlement and 230 years of the American Constitution, Christians find themselves in a foreign land. We realize the Founding Fathers were Christian in name only; their religion was deism, a bleached, denatured form of Protestantism which had wandered even further than Catholicism from our historical, liturgical roots.
Arriving at November 1, 2017 the Church recalls the original glory of Saint John's vision, "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue."
We see the saints gathering before the Throne of God, singing the praises of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are not just the canonized variety whose names are listed in the Roman calendar; they are everyone baptized, eucharisted and confirmed in the Blood of the Lamb. They have heard, welcomed, received and kept the Word of God in their daily lives. They are sinful, of course, but saved by their willingness to be delivered from their fears, prejudices and possessions; a willingness which is also a gift of the Holy Spirit. They make no claim of worthiness but, with endless astonishment, sing their gratitude to the Lord who empties himself in love for them.
In the light of this festival we remember again that we have been sent from Jerusalem to be a blessing. We know the human race continually migrates. We can no more bar immigrants from coming here than we can claim this as our "native land." Christians are native only of the heavenly kingdom and we sing our native songs in a foreign land. We are simply sojourners passing through and grateful to be here. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

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