On the Sunday after Pentecost, the Church celebrates All Saints. This is not simply a way to “round up” all the saints we may have omitted to commemorate during the year, “because of the multitude of their names,” as the Liturgy of St Basil says. Rather, it invites us to contemplate what sainthood means for the world and for the life of each one of us. In his homily, below, Fr James Graham discusses our call to sainthood and how we can answer it.
Come and join us in celebrating the Divine Liturgy at 9:30 am on Sunday, and stay after to enjoy lunch and conversation in the church hall.
ALL WHO TRULY FOLLOW CHRIST ARE SAINTS
Hebrews 11:33-12:2…………….Matthew 10:32-38, 19:27-30
Today the Church celebrates the Sunday of All Saints. We remember and honor all the saints.
But when we say “all the saints,” who are we really talking about?
Do we mean only the “official” saints, those who have dates on the Church calendar? Each of them has at least one day every year, often shared with one or more other saints because there are so many.
Do we mean all Christians of extraordinary piety and holiness and good works? Many such people go unrecognized, or are unknown, or are forgotten now, though they enjoyed great renown in their own times and places.
So, really, who are “all the saints”?
We remember that in the earliest days of the Church, in St Paul’s letters, he calls all the Christians “saints” or “holy ones.” Originally, at that time, “saint” wasn’t an official title: it was a description, a recognition that God calls all believers to be holy, as God is holy.
And what does that mean?
God is holy by nature. God is the Creator, above all creation, set apart from all creation; perfect in power, in love, in mercy, in justice.
We humans are created in the image of God, but we are not God. We are not holy by nature. But we can become holy, by God’s grace and our own cooperation with God’s grace. The word “saint” literally means “sanctified” or “made holy.” We can be made holy, we can be sanctified, we can become saints. And this is what we are called to do. How is God’s Kingdom going to come on earth and it is in heaven if we don’t become God’s holy ones?
So the feast of All Saints really honors all Christian believers—past, present, and future—who live holy lives as God calls us to do. We honor those who have gone before us—St Paul calls them “a great cloud of witnesses.” They are our examples, our role models, our mothers and fathers in faith and in faithful living.
And we also honor ourselves—we who are trying to be saints, trying to be faithful witnesses of the Lord in what we do and what we say. Maybe it seems strange, or even boastful, but we need to recognize holiness in others and in ourselves, and to encourage it. And if we are not living holy lives, this feast should remind us to get busy doing what God wants. How will we be role models for future Christians if we don’t strive to be holy now?
Perhaps we wonder how we can do this. We aren’t Apostles like Andrew, Peter, James, John, and the others. We aren’t close personal friends or relatives of Jesus, like Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist. We aren’t great soldiers for Christ, like St George and St Demetrios, or prophets like St Elias. We haven’t given up everything to help the poor, like St Francis and Mother Teresa. We haven’t suffered and died for Christ, like St Barbara and other great martyrs.
Our Lord Jesus told His disciples, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven,” and “You must take up your cross and follow me,” and “You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones in glory,” and “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake . . . will inherit eternal life.”
To be holy, we have to put God first, in whatever situation or circumstance of our life. If we trust in God and put God first, God will show us what to do, whether it is simply praying for others or something as dramatic as being killed for the Christian faith. All who truly follow Christ are saints, always giving thanks and praise and glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and ever and to ages of ages. Amen.