On the Sunday following Pentecost, we commemorate all the Saints of the Church, which is why this day is referred to as “The Sunday of All Saints.” The Church established the commemoration of this present feast after Pentecost, the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit, in order to show that the coming of the Holy Spirit worked enormous deeds not only through the Holy Apostles but through the lives of thousands of men, women and children, who over the centuries, have given their lives completely and totally to God, and in return have been given the honor of being elevated to the rank of Sainthood.
In every generation God raises up Saints in the Church in order to encourage the fainthearted, invigorate the slothful, educate the ignorant, and to prove that no matter what life a person once led, and what sort of sins one participated in the past, through repentance holiness is attainable. The Church is full of Saints who were people that were once thieves, murderers and harlots, people who were once self-serving and dishonest, full of passions, such as greed, envy and lust. It is not without purpose that the lowliest and often despised of society became the greatest soldiers in God’s army. This is to show that with God there is no favoritism.
Both rich and poor have become saints. Both men and women have become saints and perhaps nearly every ethnic group in the world can boast of at least one person in their culture who has become a saint. One does not need to have a certain amount of money, or to be of a particular ethnic group, or to be connected with a certain individual in order to pursue and attain holiness. What is required and what the Saints exemplified is an undying love for and devotion to God and to the following of His Holy Commandments.
The Saints also teach us that in order to be truly identified as a Christian, we must be willing to let go of the world because we cannot be attached to the things of this life and at the same time pursue a life in Christ. This is clearly stated in I John Chapter Two where we read, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
We are also reminded that while we are in the world we are not of the world. That is to say, while we are here temporarily, we will make use of things necessary for our life, but let us not forget that we are sojourners here, nomads. Our home is the Kingdom of God, which is where our true citizenship lies. The Saints whom we remember on this day never forgot this truth. They came to realize the vanity of this world and how quickly time passes. Being ordinary people just like you and I, they became extra-ordinary once they gave their lives to God and then struggled to live a lifetime of repentance. They took to heart the passage from 1st Peter, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, You shall be holy, for I Am holy.” They, as all of us should, read these words as one’s given specifically to them. As they read these words they must have thought, “My Lord and God is calling me, specifically me, to do this!”
One contemporary father, who was recently glorified in the Chruch, Justin Popovich, has this to say: “To become completely holy, both in soul and in body, is our vocation. This is not a miracle, but rather the norm, the rule of faith. The commandment of the Holy Gospel is clear: as the One who has called you is Holy, so you be holy in all manner of life. And that means that according to Jesus Christ, Who having become man, and showed forth in Himself a completely holy life, has the right to command this from us.”
Our Lord is calling us to Himself, to live as He lived when He was on earth. And He can ask this from us because He became a man taking on flesh and living in this world with all its temptations and evil. You may say, but He was also God, and you would be correct. However, He never calls us to something that is impossible. And indeed, even though it is impossible for us to become holy on our own, with His help, all things are possible. So in essence He calls us to be holy, and yet at the same time He says, and I will help you attain this state, but, you must want this too. You must believe that it is possible through Me.
St. Justin Popovich reminds us that “Christians, having united themselves spiritually and by Grace to the Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of faith, will receive from Him the holy energies needed to live a holy life.” So let us take the shining examples of the saints whom we remember on the Sunday of All Saints, recall the works they did through the power given to them from above, and let us pursue a life of holiness for this is what God call us to. Let us hold close to our hearts the epistle reading on the Sunday of All Saints found in St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, so that they can become aflame with love for the saints:
“BRETHREN, all the saints through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering over deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfection of our faith. Amen.”
With love in Christ,