Solemnity of All Saints – 5th November 2023
Lectionary Readings: Rev. 7:2-4.9-14; Ps. 23(24):1-6; 1 Joh. 3:1-3; Matt.5:1-12
Theme: A big family feast
The feast of All Saints can be seen as a big family feast of the community of believers throughout the centuries: a family sharing the same father in Heaven. Today’s reading from 1 Joh. 3:1-3 reminds us that we all are God’s children and therefore a community of brothers and sisters. As children of God – we are created in his image: everybody has traits of their heavenly father. However, the text does not stop here but speaks of an ongoing work in progress to become more and more like him. There is plenty of room for change on our journey and as another incentive of hope the text adds, that all who have this hope will continue to purify themselves “just as he is pure” (1 Joh. 3:3).
This vision to become more like God, to share all his wonderful traits such as love, forgiveness, compassion, creativity etc. is nothing new to the community of believers. In Leviticus 11:44 the God of Israel asks nothing less from his people Israel, his children, than to be and to become holy, because he is holy. They are to imitate their God who had taken them from the slavery of Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land. The process of becoming more like God is nothing purely spiritual but practical, expressing itself in a life lived in holiness. This can neither be accomplished in an instant, nor is the road to that goal straight and easy. It involves journeys through desert lands and many learning processes in discerning the voice of God. The project of becoming a holy people, of living different, alternative lives is threatened more than once by recurring unholy behaviour in the very midst of God’s own people. But it is also accompanied by God’s continuing grace and his never revoked promise to be Israel’s God. God trusts against all odds in this project in the progress of a holy nation.
This is the hope of which today’s second reading of 1 John speaks as well: a hope that the God of Israel is still at work and has not lost hope in us. He still trusts that eventually we will become more like him. What this will look like will vary, since every person on earth is an original and has his or her own path towards holiness, and today’s Gospel reading offers some guidelines.
Today’s feast reminds us of the vast possibilities of embarking on this journey with our heavenly father. Looking at biographies of people, the church has declared saints; and also considering people who continue to impress us by their saintly lives, we will notice that none of these biographies is alike. Perhaps this is meant when 1 Joh 3:2 also states that “what we will be has not yet been revealed”. We cannot imagine what this big family will eventually look like, this large community, consisting of people throughout the centuries, all of them different but united in the same goal and hope – to become more like the God of Israel. Today’s first reading, Rev. 7:9, gives us a glimpse of that vision and reminds us Christians that we believe that Jesus Christ showed us what this image of God may look like.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Which saint has made an impression on you? 2. Think of a saint in our times.
Bibliography: Levine, A-J.and Brettler, M.Z., The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Second Edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford/New York: 2017)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Barbara Kauffmann, Germany, Bat Kol Alumna 2010, 2011, 2012