The Feast of All Saints
Revelation 7:9–17; Matthew 5:1–12
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A saint’s life is nothing other than the Beatitudes in action (Parsch, The Church’s Year of Grace, Vol. 5, 320). This is what St. John saw in his vision. He saw a great multitude, which only God could number, of the poor in spirit made rich by the grace of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven is theirs. He saw the comfort of those who mourn, and the satisfaction of those who hunger and thirst. Every tear has been wiped from their eyes, for they have left behind all that is crooked and warped and wrong. Everything has been made right. They have come to their reward. They have fought the good fight of faith. They have run the race set before them and obtained the substance of the hope within them. They are not dead, but purified and gathered around the Lamb who has freed them by the outpouring of His blood.
Knowing this in some ways makes their absence more palatable. But only a little. Death has lost its sting, but the scars that sting left behind are still tender. Even though we do not mourn as those without hope, we still mourn. We still desire to see them, to catch a glimpse of their faces and smiles, to hear them laugh or sing, to smell their smell.
For all those who fell asleep in Jesus, who believed and were baptized, who kept the faith, who suffered all even death rather than fall away from it, you will see and hear and smell again. And you will recognize them. You will know them and they you. For when St. John sees the great multitude he can tell that they are from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. He can discern the differences. They’re not faceless. They haven’t lost their humanity and become angels. They are more human now than they ever were while here. They are more themselves now, than they ever were before. For they are now without sin. They have set aside what is corruptible and put on what is incorruptible. All has been made right. They are satisfied. They do not mourn. They are filled with mercy, pure in heart, perfect in peace. You will know them. If fact, I think you will know them all. Those you’ve never met. For they are so fully themselves, so fully who God always meant them to be, that you can’t mistake them—babies conceived but never born, children you’ve never held, relatives you only know by name, saints from all times and places. You will know them all, and gather with them all, and raise your voices together in full-throated praise to the Lamb who was slain but lives.
Now, you still mourn. You still await the comfort promised to you. You still hunger and thirst for righteousness, for the consummation of all things, for things to be made right, for the crooked to be straightened, for the humble to be exalted and the proud to be humbled. You still long for God’s mercy to be showered upon you, for your hearts to be purified so that you, too, may see God, not in a mirror dimly, but face to face. But consider this: The only difference between them and you is that they have already passed through death, and you must still abide in it. Your day will come. Your sins will end. Your sorrow will flee. And even now, like them, you are blessed. A saint’s life is nothing other than the Beatitudes in action. You, no less than those who have gone before you, are saints of the holy Trinity. For you belong to Him. you bear His name in Holy Baptism, His body and blood in the Holy Communion, His Word in your ears and upon your hearts. The kingdom of heaven is yours.
And you are here today to receive anew the forgiveness of sins, to be absolved, to hear the Word, to pray and praise your God, and finally to join in the most direct communion, to eat His Body and drink His Blood, when He joins you to Himself, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
The great multitude that John saw was not simply those who had already come to heaven while He was exiled on Patmos. If it were we could expect that St. Mary and his friends and loved ones who had gone before him, and also all the saints of the Old Testament, were there. They were, of course, but there was more. For John saw the culmination of creation. He witnessed the great multitude after the resurrection on the Last Day. When he was transported to heaven he was also transported out of time. So he saw people who weren’t even born yet, like St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and his own great-grandchildren.
This means that he also saw you. What he describes in chapter 7 is not about them, the saints of God. It is about you. These are your people. You are there. That is your future, foretold in God’s Holy Word and seen by St. John. So it doesn’t matter what happens on Tuesday, what they say about you at work, who wins the World Series or the State Championships, or whether your cancer returns or not. What matters, what endures, is that the Lamb who was slain lives. He will bring you home. Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. Yours is blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might. You, too, are the poor in spirit made rich by the grace of Christ. Salvation belongs to our God. And you belong to Him. Salvation, therefore, is yours by grace through faith because of Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
In the meantime, come and gather around the Lord’s table, His Altar and His throne. Come with angels and archangels, and the whole company of heaven. Come with Steve and Cora and Neil. Come with spouses, children and friends both here and at rest. Come and feast on the Lamb who was slain but lives. And in this, you indeed are Blessed. For a saint’s life is nothing other than the Beatitudes in action. Amen.