Dear My Brothers and Sisters In Christ,
Life on earth is hard. "Continuous warfare," as Job said (7:1). This world is fallen, filled with obstacles to justice, peace, and true happiness. And each one of us carries within us a fallen human nature that tends toward selfishness and sin, in spite of being loved by God and having been redeemed and renewed by his grace. As a result, the life of every Christian here on earth is a hard battle to stay faithful to Christ and to help others do the same. This is why the Church on earth is called the Church Militant.
Official Church teaching doesn't shy away from this. The Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, taught: "For a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested. Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God's grace" (Gaudium et Spes, #37).
We know this, and we have accepted the challenge - that's why we are here today. And yet, we get tired of fighting, sometimes. We get worn out. That's why the Church gives us today's Solemnity of All Saints - to rekindle our hope!
Today we take our eyes off the battlefield of earth where the Church militant is fighting, sweating and bleeding. And we lift our gaze to heaven, where we see "a great multitude, which no one could count" gathered around our King, enjoying the rewards of their earthly labors, enjoying victory. These are the saints in heaven - the Church Triumphant. They are people just like us, from every age and place and walk of life, who "survived the time of great distress," as St John calls life on earth. Contemplating these brothers and sisters in Christ should renew our strength, inspire us, and encourage us.
One way we can tap into the encouragement that God offers us through the saints is by asking for their intercession. Since the very beginning of the Church, Christians have asked their older brothers and sisters who have already gone to the Father's house to pray for them.
Nowadays this practice has declined. Critics of it say that we should just "go right to God". Some non-Catholic Christians even quote the Bible to criticize it, pointing out that the New Testament says Jesus is the "only mediator" between God and man. It certainly does say that.
But does that mean we can't pray for each other? Certainly not. In James 5:16 we are commanded to "pray for one another" because "the fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful." And who is more righteous than the saints? The Book of Acts is full of miracles performed through the intercession of the Apostles, as are the lives of the saints. Surely they don't love others less now that they have died. If anything, the saints are even more eager to intercede for us now that they share God's love more fully in heaven.
Today we are reminded that all baptized Christians form one family in Jesus Christ. And just as good parents generously let the older children help and teach the younger children, God does the same for us. It would be a dysfunctional dad who insisted on reserving all good deeds to himself, and God is certainly not a dysfunctional dad.
Today, let's give our Lord the pleasure of recognizing the achievements of the saints, and of asking for their prayers.