Sunday Scriptures — All Saints, Nov. 1, 2015

Normally, the Sunday after the 30th in Ordinary Time is the 31st Sunday in OT. In Year B it “fast forwards” in the Gospel of Mark to bring us from Jericho to Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem (bypassing Chapter 11 and verses 1-27 of Ch. 12). We hear in Mark 12:28-34 of the two greatest commandments. The first reading — Deuteronomy 6:4-5 — gives the first of the commandments, the second being found in Leviticus 19:18. The second reading for that Sunday — Hebrews 7:23-28 — again tells of Jesus as our high priest, emphasizing that he offers one sacrifice because he is perfect and eternal, unlike the previous priests.

But this year, we don’t hear those readings, because the Sunday of Ordinary Time is “outranked” and superseded by the Solemnity of All Saints, which falls on November 1. (All Saints used to be called “All Hallows,” and thus the preceding evening is Hallowe’en.) Solemnities are the highest rank of liturgical celebration, and they displace Sundays of Ordinary Time and Christmastide (but not of Advent, Lent, and Eastertide).

Why have a feast of All Saints? Don’t the saints have their individual days through the year? Theoretically, they do, but not all appear in the Church’s general calendar. There are well over 365 canonized saints, so most of their days don’t get celebrated at Mass. And then there are all the people who have been saved through the centuries and are in heaven but have not been canonized. Hopefully, these include many of our own relatives, friends, and acquaintances who have died, as well as many others of earlier times. So while the feast includes the famous canonized saints, this is especially a day to honor those who are not officially known or regularly celebrated, to ask for their intercession with the Lord for us, and to pray that we will join their number.
The numbers given in the first reading — Revelation7:2-4, 9-14 — need not be taken literally. What the passage tells us is that there will be a great many Jews saved as well as even more Gentiles (unsurprising, since there are way more Gentiles than Jews). The throng tells us this is no highly limited group. God wants us all. We only have to be faithful to him.
The responsorial psalm — Ps 24:1-6 — prepares us for the Beatitudes in the gospel as we reflect on those who attain the blessedness portrayed in Revelation.
The second reading — 1 John 3:1-3 —tells us a bit more about what happens in heaven: seeing God we become like him. But even now, we are already God’s beloved adopted children. We belong to him; we belong with him.
The Beatitudes — Matthew 5:1-12a — show us qualities that characterize saints and that characterized Jesus above all. Maybe it would be useful to ask God to show us if we need his help to live up to any of them. How poor are we in spirit? Do we mourn for the trials which beset God’s people and for those who do not know God? How meek, how hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness, how merciful, how clean of heart (not just sexually, but with regard to anything sordid) are we? Are we peacemakers in our families, communities, world? Can we take persecution (Revelation’s “time of great distress”) if it comes and stand firm in our faith?
A moment of openness to the Holy Spirit showing us how to live more fully the holy life to which we are called is in order. As I said above, however, above all we should rejoice both in our call to be saints and in the blessedness of all those, known and unknown, are in already heaven and ask them all — especially those with whom we have any sort of connection such as family, location, way of life — to intercede with God for the grace to remain faithful and to join them in heaven. We know the invitation is always open.

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