Imagine the most beautiful place you have ever been. Imagine the awe you felt at the grandeur of God’s creation. Imagine the peace it gave you to feel a part of all that surrounded you.
Now imagine the happiest day of your life. Imagine all the blessings that made that day so special. Imagine all the people you shared it with and the overwhelming feeling of love that enveloped you.
Now imagine the most intense religious experience you have ever had. Imagine the sense of God’s presence that you felt. Imagine all the intense emotions that welled up in your soul as you realized that you are loved by God as His unique daughter or son.
All those experiences no matter how intense or profound are only the faintest shadow of what awaits us in heaven.
There we will see God face to face. Saint John, in today’s second reading, assures us that “we shall see Him as He is.” He will no longer be hidden from us. There will be no question as to His existence. However, even more importantly, we will experience His deep, abiding love for us. We will see Him look at us with His loving gaze. There will be no doubt in our minds that we are desired by the God who created all this beauty from nothing.
Also we will be joined by all the faithful people of God who have ever lived. By God’s grace we will stand in the company of Moses, David, Judith and Isaiah. We will see the Blessed Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Magdalene and all those who knew Jesus during His earthly life. All the angels of God in their splendor will fill the heavenly chamber. As Saint John describes for us in the first reading from the Book of Revelation, together with them we will stand before the throne of our Heavenly Father raising our voices in praise for His goodness, mercy and justice.
Every year on this day - The Feast of All Saints - the Church reminds us of our calling to be saints. Each of us was created by God to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Heaven is our homeland. It is where our hearts will finally be at rest. It is the fulfillment of all our longing. It is where the mysterious plan of God will be revealed to us and all the struggles and trials of this life will finally make sense.
That is why we are given this great feast day every year - to give us hope. As followers of Christ, we struggle in this life. We do not feel at home in a world where human life is seen as disposable, where the only purpose is to experience pleasure and the only value of a person is his or her ability to be productive. We feel out of place in a society that fills its mind with worthless entertainment while the soul is undernourished. And we do not understand how there can be so much poverty and misery on a planet abundantly blessed with natural resources. Yet on this day we profess our belief that we were not made just for this world. We await a new heaven and a new earth where God’s justice will rule supreme. All that is lacking in this present life points us to the life that is to come. Despite all the setbacks we experience, despite the ridicule we are subjected to because of our beliefs, we hold onto our faith in a good God who has called us to spend an eternity of joy with Him. We hold onto our hope that He will triumph in the end.
Saint John in today’s second reading tells us: “Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure as he is pure.”
This feast not only reminds us that we are called to spend all eternity with God in Heaven, it also teaches us how we are to live in this life. We are to use the good things of this world to help us along on our journey to Paradise. We have to be disciplined to not allow them to distract us from our final destination. We are to be pure - that is, untainted by the materialistic values of our age.
We often have the misconception that the saints were so focused on heaven that they did not enjoy the things of earth. But nothing could be further from the truth. We know that Saint Francis loved nature and animals. All the saints enjoyed intimate, emotionally sustaining friendships. For every saint, there is another saint who was his or her good friend. We think of Saint Francis and Saint Clare, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica. Understanding that the things of this world are passing helped the saints focus on what really mattered - faith, hope and love.
We are all called to be great saints, each of us right where we live and work. We are called to remember our dignity as children of God whose true home is in heaven. We are called to focus on the things that really matter - faith, hope and love - as we live in a world that only understands what it can see and touch. If by God’s grace, we persevere no matter what trials we may experience, then we can hold on to the hope that we will see our Heavenly Father as He is and be like Him.