Reflections on the Readings
Solemnity of All Saints - November 1, 2009 - Year B
By Dennis Hankins
...the spirits of just men made perfect. (Hebrews 12:23)
Friends in high places. That's who they are you know. What am I talking about? Well, like you, I believe in the communion of saints. Are you surprised that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses? Those who have died in the friendship of God are not only God's friends, but ours as well. They pray with us, they pray for us. We request our friends here to pray for us. We may request our friends in heaven to pray for us as well.
These friends are called saints. To be sure, there are more saints than the Church has canonized. In her wisdom, the Church has elevated some whom we know as saints, that we might emulate their example of holiness and rightfully ask for their prayers.
For example, often in prayer I have called upon Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to pray for me or some person in my family. I don't know when I've been closer to the Holy Trinity than when I have implored the Holy Virgin to pray with me and for me. She befriends us in prayer, she intercedes for us to her Son, whom she implored to intervene when the wine ran dry at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee.
In the first reading we are reminded that our friends in high places is a great number. The figure of 144,000 is a symbolic number speaking of the New Israel. It is the square of 12 (there were 12 tribes in Israel) multiplied by 1,000. The Church in heaven and on earth is comprised of every nation, race, people, and tongue. It is a multitude that no one can count. In the Holy Liturgy we are spiritually united with this throng before the mighty throne of the Father and His Son who sits at his right hand. Every Lord's Day is a prayer meeting of unimaginable proportion and unfathomable effect. Why? Because the prayer of the righteous has great power in its effects. (James 5:16)
When I was a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, the good Bishop, took his clergy to Penetanguishene Bay in Canada. This is in the area of Midland and is the region where Jesuit Missionary Priests were martyred by the Iroquois, namely St. John De Brebeuf and his companions in the mid 1600's. A replica of the old Fort and Outpost of the Jesuits is there. In that place is a chapel with a dirt floor and a martyr buried in the rear of the chapel. It is a holy place. Nearby in Midland, Ontario is the Shrine of the Martyrs. John Paul II prayed there during his pontificate. I myself have knelt before the relic skull of the martyr St. John De Brebeuf.
I was privileged to be on two pilgrimages to these holy places. On the second pilgrimage, while we were worshipping back at our host parish where our retreat meetings were taking place, I shared a prophetic word with our gathering that went something like this:
I the Lord have gathered you to this place. It was me that brought you here that you might mingle your praises with the spirits of just men made perfect.
Those pilgrimages forever changed me. Those were the days when the seeds of my longing to unite with the Catholic Church were planted, watered and came to full fruit.
We have friends in high places. Some of them on this Solemnity of All Saints, left this world who loved not their lives to the death. They accepted torture, refusing release, that they might rise again to a better life. Many were destitute, afflicted, ill treated, of whom the world was not worthy. Jesus in today's gospel instructs on a mountain top his disciples saying. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.
Let us mingle our prayers with those of the spirits of just men and women made perfect, that countless throng before the throne where we are invited to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we might receive help in our time of need.
This is a prayer meeting you don't want to miss!
Let us pray: Dear Father of the justified, may we unite our hearts more faithfully to him who is the Son of your heart, and by the Holy Spirit ignite our hearts with the fire of the love of the Three in One. Amen.