Solemnity of All Saints
(Revelation 7:2-4.9-14; I John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a)
A distinguished attorney is asked, “Who is the most important person in the courtroom (to assure justice).” Perhaps it is the judge who sees that that due process is followed. Or maybe it is the collective members of the jury who make the final decision regarding innocence or guilt. Or possibly it is the defense lawyer himself who must investigate his client’s case and persuade the jury with convincing evidence. The man responds that after many decades practicing law as prosecutor, judge, and defense attorney, he believes that the most important person in a courtroom is a reliable witness. Such a witness’s truthfulness and conviction become the determining factors in bringing about justice.
We can define saints as reliable witnesses to Jesus. By relying on God, by striving after righteousness, by reconciling opponents, and by practicing all the beatitudes, saints witness to the primacy of Jesus’ message and the efficacy of his grace. Their words and, more so, their actions provide testimony that Jesus has risen from the dead to actively support his followers.
The Church has officially declared only seven thousand or so saints. But this number hardly indicates all the people throughout twenty centuries of Christianity who have lived the beatitudes. Today we celebrate the millions of un-proclaimed saints who have given reliable witness to Jesus. Their number includes an African-American slave who lived so graciously that the slave-owning family buried her in the family plot proudly claiming her as kin. All of us have known people much better than ourselves who, we are sure, belong to the legion of reliable witnesses to Jesus.