All Saints (November 1, 2018)
Every 10 years a census is taken in the USA. In 1990, there were found to be 248.7 million . . . Then, the complaints came in that whole areas were not counted, so they estimated that about 5 to 10 mil were missed. We do not know, for sure.
In today’s reading, we hear a very exact number by the author of the quaint, chaotic, and creative work: The Book of Revelation. It tells us that 144 thousand will be the final halo count in heaven.
Where did that come from? The number, like so many others in the bible, is symbolic: 12 is an important number: 4 directions [news] x 3 regions of the world: heaven, earth, under the earth = 12. 12 x 12, a dozen dozen x 1000 =144k
You can almost see the sign at the gates: Heavenly Jerusalem - population 144 thousand. It was the biggest number imaginable to the ancients -- they lived before trillion dollar national debts became fashionable.
Saints are not rarities - anything but. There are more saints than green flies on the beach during a land breeze. That should be a source of encouragement to us.
Too often we imagine saints as they are portrayed in art: on pedestals, somehow beyond us, out of reach -- and out of touch. It can leave us with a sense of guilt because we are unable to be like them. We fear our personal identity may be lost if we were “holy.” This thinking undermines the theology of the human person; we are called - distinct and unique, by name.
This feast reminds us that each of us is destined to be a saint. Sanctity is not reserved for holy Joes and holy judies who pray a lot, suffer a lot, and rarely have any fun.
The saints were just like us: composites of mind, body, and spirit. They experienced the same ups and downs as we - sinners like us. They discovered the secret of sanctity -- revealed in the first reading: “Salvation is from our God.” We become saints not because we make up our minds to become a saint; only God can and does make us holy.
We are “God’s children” as the second reading tells us: often prodigal, always pardonable. Salvation is from our God. We repeatedly invite our lord and open our minds, bodies, and hearts to his inspiration. Being open is our work.
If the saints could talk, they might make this statement: “Don’t look at us as models, simply to be imitated, you would lose sight of who you are. Imitation does not lend itself to deep spirituality. The number in heaven, the census, increases daily. So, our wish and our prayer for this all saints day is expressed in the familiar song: “I want to be in that number when the saints come marching in.”