If we were asked to come up with a list of those who, according to our assessment, make it to heaven, i.e. a list of the Saints, whom would we include and whom would we leave out? Chances are that our list would be short.
It would be limited to those who do us good; those who are nice to us; those who share our political views (maybe), those who live out the Catholic faith in ways similar to ours, and the ones of whose behavior we approve; and that’s about it. At any rate, quite a few would be left out; but we would be ready to justify our selection and our exclusions.
However, this “earthy” way of selecting proves, right away, how God’s ways of reasoning and ours are poles apart. It would prove that He alone is God and we are limited, tunnel-vision, petty, narrow-minded human beings prone to assigning to ourselves a lot more importance than we deserve and attributing to ourselves considerable more wisdom and fairness than we really possess.
As the Book of Revelation (7:2-4, 9-14) reveals to us, God comes up with a list which no one can count from every nation, race, people and tongue. And the reason for this striking contrast is because God is pure love and love has no boundaries; sets no limits; and is all-encompassing. Hence, inevitably, most assuredly, in heaven we would be totally surprised.
My suggestion, today, on All Saints Day, is that we should try to see people around us through a different lens, through God’s lens which is the lens of love so as to lessen the astonishment awaiting us in heaven and begin, even now, to reason the way God reasons and to see reality close to the way He sees it.
The Beatitudes can be defined as the ultimate way to retrain our minds and hearts to think and feel the way God does, i.e. the way of love. To begin to prepare for that future wonder and to get closer to God’s mind, heart and ways, we have to distance ourselves from and out rightly reject the ways of this world.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. (John 15:19)
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
The ways of the world are diametrically opposed to the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes are lived out solely by force of love for God and for our neighbor, while the ways of the world concern themselves strictly with the individual self. Poverty of spirit, mourning over what is slowing down the advancement of God’s Kingdom, meekness, hunger and thirst for righteousness, heartfelt mercy, single-heartedness, accepting hardships and making sacrifices for the sake of peace, facing persecution with courage can be embraced only by those who are driven completely by love of God and neighbor.
Now, since we know from 1 John (3:1-3) that we are meant to be like God, to be love; since this is the true definition of holiness, we should take seriously the hope that is meant to enlighten and sustain our entire life 24/7. It is the hope to become saints, to become love, to be like God. Looking at our inner disposition and performance record we are forced to admit that, in reality, most of our time is taken up by many things but the hope to become saints, to become love, to be Christ-like. This reading concludes with: Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself (herself) pure, as He is pure. (1 John 3:3)
So it sounds impossible and disheartening. How can we be sustained by this hope based on God; how can we make ourselves as pure as God is? How can we remove all dross within our self that is clinging to our poor way of loving God and neighbor? How can we be driven solely by the Beatitudes?
This is where the beauty of the Communion of Saints, our actual belonging to God’s holy household through Baptism and Holy Communion comes into play. One loving action that the Saints in heaven are always eager to do is inspiring us and then helping us to imitate them.
We have a choice: we can pick our favorite Saint whose name is in the liturgical calendar or, we can pick a deceased person from our own biological family who was very dear to us and who was outstanding in living out one of the Beatitudes.
In both cases, we can sustain our hope for holiness while counting on the powerful intercessions of Saints well-known or totally obscure.
Both categories are driven by love just as we should be all the time!