ANYONE WHO CHOOSE THIS BOX: A HOMILY ON THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS, 2018, By Fr. HENRY NWOKOR CSsR, REDEEMER HOUSE
“Sanctity is more attainable than learning, but it is easier to be learned than to be a saint” Josemaria Escriva. This is a very paradoxical quote which kept me thinking for days. Maybe it will keep you thinking a while.
There was a king who had a very beautiful daughter. He was afraid that men will desire his daughter for her beauty and not for true love. Before he died he bought three coffins telling his daughter that any man who comes to marry her must choose from one of the coffins. Her picture will be in one of the coffins, and only the man who chose the coffin containing the picture is worthy to marry her.
On the first coffin is written, “WHOEVER CHOSES ME WILL GET WHAT HE DESERVES”
On the second coffin is written, “WHOEVER CHOSES ME WILL GET WHAT ALL MEN DESIRE”
On the third coffin is written, “WHOEVER CHOSES ME MUST BE PREPARED TO GIVE AND HAZZARD ALL THAT HE HAS”
The first suitor felt he is a wealthy, handsome and influential man, and so he deserves the beautiful princess. He chose the first coffin, but the picture of the girl was not in it.
The second suitor felt this princess is so beautiful and every man will be happy to have her. He chose the second coffin, but the picture of the girl was not in it.
The third man felt he loves this girl so much and he was prepared for give up everything he has, only to marry her. He chose the third coffin, and needless to say, the picture of the girl was in it.
WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF GOD
Beloved: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself and he is pure: God is our Father and we are all His children. Because we are all His children, his intention is that all of us should be saved. If you have children, you will not want any of them to go astray, but that does not mean a child cannot chose to go astray. Therefore, will we all be saved?
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE SAVED?
I, John, saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, out of every tribe of the sons of Israel. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and people, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisodom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: This passage has misled many people to thinking that only 144,000 people will be saved. This a wrong interpretation of this passage. It is important to understand how the Jewish people make use of numbers. Their use of numbers is not the same as it is for us. Numbers for them are more symbolic than specific. There are 12 tribes of Israel and as such the number 12 becomes a complete number for them. That is why Jesus chose 12 disciples and when one of the disciples betrayed Him and killed himself, the other disciples had to conduct an election because they had to maintain the number 12 which is a symbol of completeness. In this passage, we are told that the 144,000 people are from every nation, from all tribes of Israel. Secondly, the number 1000 for the Jews is a symbol of infinity, meaning uncountable. They did not have calculators and computers like we do, and all counting is done manually. So, 1000 is a lot and so uncountable. How then did they arrive at the number 144,000?
Uncountable members of each tribe of Israel X Uncountable members of each tribe of Israel. In order words 12,000 X 12,000= 144,000. For a people who did not have calculators, they did a good job. To understand this further, at least I know that in my own language, Igbo, counting did not go beyond 1000, which is ‘Puku Nnari’, almost like saying uncountable.
The reading goes beyond the boundaries of Israel. 144,000 is of Israel, and it means completeness X Uncountable. Then for those outside of Israel, it is so uncountable, it cannot be put into figures. So, this passage is not saying that only 144,000 people will be saved. It is saying that those who will be saved will be uncountable.
There are those who believe that God is so merciful that no matter what you do, you will go to heaven. This is called Universalism. The bible did not say so. When Jesus was asked how many people will be saved, he said we must strive to enter through the narrow gate, adding that, the road to destruction is wide and many are taking it, but the road to life is narrow and only few are taking it. The belief that everybody will go to heaven may sound ‘nice’, but it is from the devil. However, an opposite error to this is the error of particularism, where people believe that some people have been marked for heaven and others for hell, and that no matter what they do or how they live their lives, those who are destined for heaven will go to heaven and those destined for hell will go to hell. This is also from the devil. The gospel gives us the qualities required for sanctity. They are called the Beatitudes, a word which can be divided as Be and Attitudes. The reason why these beatitudes are important is because anybody who does not have them will not enjoy being in heaven. Heaven will be hell for them. One thing all the attitudes have in common is that they are all about letting go of one thing or another.
1. LETTING GO OF POSSESSIONS
At that time: Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:” Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their s is the kingdom of heaven. This kind of poverty is not about not-having. It is about not-owning. It is about detatchment from the things we have or do not have. If a person is economically poor and he/she believes that the goal of their life is to become rich one day and they are prepared to do anything to get there, such a person is not poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit is to appreciate whatever we have, to acknowledge whatever we do not have, but to know that no matter what we have or do not have, Jesus is our greatest treasure, and true poverty happens when we do not have Jesus. And so, a peron who is poor in spirit is prepared to forgo everything and to give up everything, if only they attain heaven. Saints are people with this kind of mindset.
2. LETTING GO OF PEOPLE
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. When the saints loose anything or anyone, they mourn the loss, but they are also comforted by the fact that there is more to life than this world. Whey they loose, they are hurt, but they are comforted because they have their eyes set on eternity. God means more to them than anything else in this world, even their own life. One of our common loses is the loss of loved ones, when they die. Sometimes we try to perpetuate their earthly existence instead of mourning them and letting them go. Even when our loved ones are alive, we should not be attached to them.
3. LETTING GO OF POWER
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”: To be meek or gentle is not the same as being weak. Only a powerful person can be meek/gentle. If a person has no power, they are weak and not meek. A meek person is someone who has the power but has decided not to use it. This is what being powerful entails, to be powerful enough not to use your power. Just because you can do it does not mean you should do it. This has to do with self-control as well. Saints use their power to do good and refrain from using their power for destruction. Only these kind of people can look after the earth and so deserve to inherit it. There is so much destruction going on in the world, just because people have got accademic, economic, physical, psychological even spiritual powers. Saints are powerful as well as meek.
4. LETTING GO OF PLESSURE
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied: Many of us want to be saints, but it is only a wish. It has to be a desire, it has to be a real hunger. nity. It is not easy to do the right thing, at least not always and in all circumstances. Sinful things are usually attractive and even when we dont want to sin, there is always the temptation. So if we just wish to be saints, then chances of becoming saints almost do not exist. It has to be a hunger. It has to give us sleepless nights. The Eucharist is a foretaste of heaven, so that as much as it satisfies us, it should leave us very hungry and thirsty for heaven. It is this hunger and thirst that will enable us to let go of sin and sinful habits and desire righteousness.
5. LETTING GO OF INDIFFERENCE
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. We can become so engrossed in ourselves that we do not see other people or their needs. The opposite of mercy is not cruelty, but indifference. We can come to a point where we totally dont care, we neither love nor hate. This is the worst state of any heart. A merciful heart is a heart that has become like the heart of God. If a child does not resemble his father in any way, then his paternity is in doubt. Therefore, if we do not become like God, then our claim that God is our father is in doubt. All the qualities we mention here are qualities that are pecular to God.
6. LETTING GO OF DISTRACTIONS
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God: All three readings speak of purity. Even the psalm says “The clean of hands and pure of heart, whose soul is not set on vain things.” This gives us an idea of what it means to be pure in heart. A pure heart is a heart that is not set on vain things. It is a heart that has discovered that only one thing matters and is focused on that one thing and every other thing count as vanity. It is a heart that seeks God above all things. If this heart ever gets stained by sin, he/she runs quicly to confession and he/she is again washed in the blood of the lamb. This is why a white cloth is given to us at our baptism and also placed on our cofin at our funeral. Purity of heart is single-mindedness, focusing on the prize and not on vain distractions.
7. LETTING GO OF DIVISTIONS
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God: Being a peace maker does not mean accepting whatever people do as right, or agreeing with everybody. It is about keeping all relationships in the right balance. It means we have to let go of the prejudices we have which cause division in our world. A true saint does not discriminate between peoples. Divinding the world between “we” and “them” is not good. In this vission, there were people from every tribe of the world, not just the Israelites as they previously presumed. A saint is a lover of peace. A saint is peaceuful within and is peaceful with others. If you have no peace within yourself, it will be impossible for you to be at peace with anybody.
8. LETTING GO OF PRIDE
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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: The reason why we feel bad about offences committed against us is that we think we dont deserve it. We think we deserve to be treated kindly. Jesus was not treated kindly, and He certainly did not get what he deserved. in the first reading we are told that these people are those who have gone through tribulation. The palm branches they hold is a sign of martyrdom. It is a sign that they have gone through hatered. Even in the second reading we are told that the world will not know us because the world does not know God. The saint is a child of God. If you follow Jesus, those who crucified Jesus will crucify you.
If you are told to choose between three boxes, one which promises to give you what you deserve, the other promising to give you what everybody wants, and the last promising that you will have to give and hazard all that you have, which one will you choose? It is easy to chose the last one because we now know it is the right one, but am I really ready to do this? What God wants to give you is so big you have to empty yourself completely to recieve it. The value you place on something is demonstrated by how much you are willing to pay for it. Am I ready to give and hazard EVERYTHING? EVERYTHING? EVERYTHING?