Washed White in the Blood of the Lamb
”What saint has ever won his crown without first contending for it?” ~ Saint Jerome
It’s interesting to note the response of our Parish Congregation to the two questions that our Pastor poses every November 1st on the Solemnity of All Saints, the glorious Feast Day celebrated by our Church today.
“How many of you want to be Saints?” he will first ask, to which perhaps 1/3 of those in attendance will reluctantly and rather gingerly raise their hands.
“How many of you want to go to Heaven?” is his second question, to which - naturally - all hands shoot up. Quickly.
But in reality, aren’t they the same question?
“You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all” said the Little Flower of Jesus, Saint Therese of Lisieux, one of the Celestial Court’s most beloved and called-upon intercessors, emblematic of the “all-in” response that is warranted in light of God’s great love for us (Romans 8:31-33).
Today’s 2nd Reading underscores this truth as well (1 John 3:1-3). Shouldn’t we be of the same mindset if we too hope to enter into eternal life with God and the Communion of Saints for all of eternity, joining “the ones who have survived the time of great distress,” those who “have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:14)?
The path to Sainthood is made clear to us in today’s Gospel wherein Jesus teaches his disciples the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12):
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven."
The Beatitudes are, plain and simple, the path to happiness and eternal life. The path to sainthood. Challenging yes, but rooted in simplicity, humility and sacrifice.
In Romans 12:2, Paul speaks of the type of sacrifice of mind and body that is needed to achieve sainthood. “Do not conform yourself to this age’” he says “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Nonconformity in this day and age is certainly unusual and at times very difficult to say the least. Saints are OK with not fitting in. As a matter of fact, they know they don’t fit in. Money, sex, power...these are not the pursuits of a saint.
In the world but not of the world.
This is so because their kingdom is not of this world, for their Master’s Kingdom is not of this world. As Saint Thomas Aquinas points out “The saints live not after the fashion of the world... the dignity of the saints is so great because they are not of this world, but of the ‘Household of God.’”
Returning to today’s 2nd Reading (1 John 3:1-3), Scripture foretold that the world would shun the children of God, those who choose life in the Spirit while eschewing life in the flesh (Romans 8:1-11). “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him” John says, going on to explain that the life of a child of God is rooted in mystery and faithfulness. “What we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.”
Faith from which pours hope, a hope rooted in the beatific vision. Purity, robes washed sparkling white with the blood of the lamb who takes away our sins through his pure act of love.
I’d like to close with a quote from St. Anthony of Padua, but before doing so I would encourage all of you to seek the intercession of the Saints each and every day. Find out each day which Saint’s Feast Day is being celebrated and make them your primary intercessor that day, for we have learned through a number of the Marian Apparitions and Locutions that the intercession of a Saint on his or her Feast Day is particularly powerful. Make these Saints your friends now, and you are guaranteed to have their friendship in heaven for eternity.
“The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ.”