In his argument with the Sadducees, Jesus reminded them that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living: that to him all men are in fact alive.
As all people are alive to God, the manner of their existence varies: some live on earth, some are with him in heaven, some are preparing for heaven in Purgatory, and some, sadly, through the choices they made in life, are now in hell. And then there are those who have yet to be conceived and born, and as God lives outside time, they too are alive in his mind.
It is interesting to note that in this context, Jesus speaks of God as
the Lord of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob
citing the venerated ancestors of the Jewish people – their early Saints. In doing so Jesus not only recognises who God is with the traditional Jewish designation, while drawing on Jewish piety. He also references a common link, a communion that exists in God – what we may see as the beginning of the Communion of the Saints, where God’s holy ones are united with him, living with him and in him; their whole existence forever defined by him.
On this Solemnity of All Saints, the Church celebrates this communion and those who are part of it – the holy men and women of every age who responded to God’s call to holiness, and having lived for him in this life, are now united with him in the next.
As we are reminded by the Church, the number of these holy ones is not confined to those officially canonised or beatified by the Church. Rather every citizen of heaven is included, most of whom we do not know, though they know us, love us and are interceding for us.
We catch a glimpse of this great multitude of witnesses in the Book of Revelation where St John tells us that they come from every nation, tribe, people and languages, their number seems impossible to count, yet they speak with one voice, praising God. These are the Saints and they are united as one in God, gazing on him and sharing in his divine life for all eternity.
The vision of St John in Revelation may seem a far cry from the reality of life as we live it, and so too the very idea of sainthood.
Holiness does not have the same currency as it used to have, although in these times Saints are still raised up, and now given that the Process of Beatification and Canonisation is more efficient and quick, thanks to better communication and research facilities, many of us may well have met and spoken with a Saint or Blessed.
This may well be the intention of God: for in an age when the faith of many is challenged and undermined, we have experienced the extraordinary presence of a Saint who nourished us through their holiness and goodness.
If we had the privilege of such an encounter we must surely see the grace of God for our times: a reminder that holiness is not alien, but possible for all and that God urges us to seek it knowing that his grace is enough for us to attain it.
We are to be included in the Communion of Saints, and not just in heaven, but even now here on earth: as Jesus reminds us in the Gospel: the kingdom of heaven is already in our midst.
Today, then, we celebrate our brothers and sisters, the Saints, and pray that we may one day be with them. In the communion that binds us, we are one with them in faith, hope and love. They accompany us each day with their prayers and presence, and they watch over us commending to God our needs and prayers.
They love us, and in their affection and concern we see manifested the extraordinary love of God who binds us all together and draws us to himself. To God all people are alive, and he unites us in one family, reserving a place in the heart of his Holy Trinity for us.
And that is where the Communion of Saints lives: in the heart of God, where all hearts are one in God.