November 1, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of All Saints
(Includes the Vigil Mass for the Feast of All Saints)
Reading I (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14) Reading II (1 John 3:1-3)
Gospel (St. Matthew 5:1-12a)
Today as we gather to celebrate the glorious feast of all the saints who are in Heaven, we have another element in our society who gathers this evening as well and they are celebrating just the opposite. The Satanists, we must understand, operate on a sanctoral calendar which is identical to that of the Catholic Church, and their celebrations are identical to that of the Catholic Church except exactly opposite. And so today they would be celebrating all the souls who have descended into hell and they will be rejoicing abundantly that such souls have done these unfortunate things.
Worse than that, they are going to desecrate Our Lord this evening and that is the purpose for our gathering here: to pray in reparation for the crimes against the Eucharist that will occur this evening. Because of all the young ears – and thanks be to God for all the young people who are here today – we will not go into what they will do to Our Lord; all you need to do is let your imagination run. Any despicable, disgusting thing that you can think of to do to the Eucharist is what they will be doing this evening, except that they also will have a Catholic priest who has apostasized and he will offer the Mass. So we need to pray, and we need to pray hard for this.
But at the same time, we need to be able to recognize, as I oftentimes point out, that this is the greatest negative proof for the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Satanists will not get a Lutheran minister. They will not get an Anglican priest. They will not get any kind of Baptist or Fundamentalist or anybody else to perform their unfortunate services. If they do not have a Catholic priest, they will break into a Catholic Church and they will steal the Eucharist out of the tabernacle. They will not do that in any other church because they know that Jesus Christ is present in only one place, and that is in the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. So they are absolutely, wholeheartedly, unflinchingly convinced of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
The problem the Satanists suffer from is the delusion that there are two gods - an evil god and a good god - and that they are equal; and that the evil god and the good god are in a battle against one another and the evil god is going to win. The devil simply points to what is going on in the world and says, “Look! It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? I’ve got the upper hand! I’m the one in control and you are going to be a victorious army with me in hell.” And they all buy the lie. They do not recognize that God is the Creator and Satan is a creature, and that God is infinitely more powerful than Satan. Satan, in fact, was thrown out of Heaven by someone who is a lower-level angel than what he is. In his arrogance, he does not acknowledge that and his followers do not. And so his followers, believing that there are these two gods who are somehow close to equal but the evil god is slightly more powerful than the good god, will therefore steal the Eucharist because they know that this is the good God. They will desecrate the Eucharist to demonstrate their power and the power of their evil master over the good God.
So what we need to do is recognize this incredible love of Our Lord to not only humble Himself to come to us in the Blessed Sacrament, but to allow Himself even to be desecrated because He loves us that much. He allows Himself to be completely vulnerable in the Blessed Sacrament. He allows Himself to be there 24 hours a day in a completely passive manner. He does not force us to believe in Him. He does not force us to come to Him in prayer. He does not force us to make any kind of act of devotion toward Him. He simply invites us silently and passively. He puts into our hearts the faith that He is truly present there, and He puts into our hearts the love of Our Lord, truly Present there before us. And He asks us simply that out of faith and love for Him that we would worship Him in the Blessed Sacrament. That act of love, that act of worship on our part is worth so much more to Our Lord than any evil that can be done to Him that He allows Himself even to be desecrated because it is worth it to Him that you and I would come to Him and we would pray before Him, that we would love Him, that we would offer ourselves in His service. It is for that reason that He allows Himself even to be used, even to be violated, even to be received sacrilegiously, or even to be desecrated by those who worship Satan.
We have to understand, as the readings from this morning so aptly put it, that our battle is not against the rulers of this world but against principalities and powers of darkness, the principalities and powers of the heavenly places. Our battle is a spiritual battle and it is one that is coming very quickly to a head. In the last several years, Satanism – Wicca, in particular – has become one of the fastest growing religions in America. Several years ago when I gave a homily, there were 200,000 registered witches in America. I read an article yesterday that said there are 600,000 today – 600,000 registered witches in America! Now those are just the ones who have taken the time to register. There are lots of dedicated Satanists who are not necessarily witches or Satanic priests. There are lots of others who are just simply on their own doing evil things.
And so we need to understand that this is the battle that we have to be about. We Catholics cannot sit back any longer and simply think that it is no big deal. We can come to Mass on Sunday and we can go home (isn’t that great?) while the battle rages and we do not even have a clue that it is happening! It is about time we enter into the battle because, as we heard in the first reading, the saints whom we celebrate today are the ones who are clothed in white with a palm branch in their hand because they are the ones who have survived the period of great trial. They entered into the battle. They died to themselves and they have the palm branch of martyrdom in their hand. Whether they were physically martyrs or just spiritually so, it did not matter; these are people who believed in the Real Presence of Jesus and they were willing to stand up and fight for Him.
Now we do not need to necessarily hunt down the Satanists and see if we can destroy what they are doing; but rather, the way we fight for Jesus is in prayer. We need to unite ourselves with all of the saints and we need to pray. We need to be willing to suffer with Our Lord and we need to be willing to offer those sufferings so that He can use that to bring about the conversion of these unfortunate souls who have fallen away or who have never heard of Him or who hate Him. What we need is not to fight fire with fire. Remember that when James and John wanted to call fire down from Heaven to destroy the people who did not believe in Jesus, Our Lord rebuked them and He gave them the name Boanerges “The Sons of Thunder” because of their wrath. Jesus simply prayed for those people.
And so it is today. He does not want those people to go to hell. He does not want them to be condemned. He wants their conversion. He wants them to stop their evil. And He needs us to pray for them because He is being desecrated this evening. But there is no suffering in the Eucharist. The suffering must take place in the Mystical Body, and we must offer that suffering along with Him to our heavenly Father so all of the desecrations that happen this evening, that God in His mercy can turn those around and in His love He can touch the hearts of some of those unfortunate souls who are there to take part in this despicable act and that He can convert them and bring them to the truth because He Himself is that truth who allows Himself even to enter into a Satanic Black Mass with the hope that maybe some of those souls will be converted.
We need to look at how much Our Lord loves those souls and we can meditate upon how much, then, He must love our souls. And we must make that act of love following from that act of faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We need to commit ourselves to striving to be saints. As we celebrate this glorious Feast of All Saints, we need to recognize that what God needs more today than anything is saints. As I have oftentimes pointed out from the pulpit, we do not need any more mediocre Catholics; we have way more than what we need. God needs saints and He needs them desperately. He wants you to be a saint. He baptized you into His Son, and He called you to holiness. But again, he will not force you to be holy. He will not force you against your will to love Him; that has to be your choice. When you see how much He loves you, He is simply asking that in return we would love Him.
He is calling each one of us to radical holiness, to great love for Our Lord. Each one of us, then, has to have the freedom to respond. As we celebrate all of those who have gone before us and have lived the faith that they professed, they give to us the courage and the hope that we too will be able to do the same: to offer ourselves for Our Lord and to offer our sufferings in union with Our Lord so that we will be able to enter more deeply into prayer, more deeply into union with Jesus Christ, and truly become the saints that God desires for each one of us to be.
Today as we celebrate this glorious solemnity of All Saints, it really needs to give us pause to think, not only to think about the reality that ordinary people like you and me can get to Heaven, that we too can be saints, that it is not just for those who are the extraordinary ones, even though God is calling each one of us to extraordinary holiness and to lives that are going to be modeled after the life of Christ. Remember, God does not want us to see if we can eke our way into Heaven, He wants us to love Him to the fullness of our ability and to try to strive for the higher places so that we can love Him with the fullness of our ability for all eternity. But even still, what we really need to ponder today is the gift that God has given to us in all of the saints.
When we celebrate the saints, oftentimes we think about the fact that we can pray a novena to a particular saint, or if we lose something we can pray to Saint Anthony, or if there is an impossible case we can pray to Saint Jude, or whatever the case might be. We have various saints for different things; we know that they are there and we can pray to them, and we know that they pray for us. But it is much more than that. We have communion with the saints. Every single person who is in the state of grace has a spiritual union with all of the saints. It is not like they are over there and we are over here, and we can ask them to pray for us and they will; we are actually united with them in the bonds of grace, which means that there is a closer union with the saints than there is even with the people in our own families with whom we live every day. We have a spiritual bond with these people and we can take full advantage of that. We can not only enter into that bond, into that union, and grow in holiness and union with the saints, but we can also ask them to be with us in whatever it is that we are doing. They literally are going to be united with us in our work for the Lord. They obviously are not going to be united with us if we are doing something that is wrong, but if it is to build up the kingdom of Christ, they are going to be one with us.
And so it is an immense multitude that we have and it is necessary. When we look around at the world today, we need all the help that we can get and the Lord has provided that for us. It is right there; all we need to do is recognize it and take advantage of it. But that is the difficulty. Because we cannot see it, because we cannot get our hands wrapped around it, we sometimes totally forget about it or we do not really realize what we have. But we have a gift from God that is immense. We not only have the Lord Himself and our guardian angels and Our Lady and all the others, but we have every single saint who is in Heaven – as well as all those who are in Purgatory – praying for us and united with us. So we have the power that hell has no concept of. They know what it is, but they have nothing that can even begin to compare with the power that is ours. We are not on our own out there. Our Lord, even though He said that He was sending us like sheep in the midst of wolves, did not tell us that we were going to go out there and be on our own. He told us He would not leave us orphans – and He has not. Not only has He not abandoned us, but neither have all of those who have gone before us abandoned us because they are still with us and we are still with them, united with them in the bonds of grace.
It is what it means to be those children of God that Saint John spoke of in the second reading. They are children of God and so are we. We are united by the same life, by the same grace, by the same charity that holds all of us together, united by the Holy Spirit. We have a union with a family that is one with God. All the power that flows from that is at our disposal so we can go out into the world and live holy lives, so we can live according to the Beatitudes that we read about in the Gospel reading, and so that one day we will be with our brothers and sisters who have gone before us. We too, with them, will be able to survive the period of great trial. We will be clothed with white robes and holding palm branches and glorifying God with all the holy angels and saints around His throne forever.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.