Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
1 John 3:1-3
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 43 years since I was baptized and received into the Catholic Church! In my 3rd year as a university student, I had completed enough courses required by my Accounting major to allow me to test my feet in the deep waters of Philosophy, which was never as clear-cut as the debits and credits of accounting journal entries. For whatever reason, the gods of Philosophy had always occupied the upper echelons of my youthful heart and captured my imagination of intellectual excellence. As soon as my accounting business was more or less dealt with, I couldn’t wait to take a few courses in Philosophy and dive right into the ancient world of the Greek philosophers and medieval thinkers.
The connection shared by many of these early thinkers to the Judeo-Christian culture soon took me further back in history to one man who somehow seemed to me, a beginner learning to polish his tools of rational thinking, to be both the beginning and the end of all philosophical explorations - a Jewish sage named Jesus Christ. Looking back, it was no coincidence that I would join the Chinese Catholic Community on campus and, through them, the RCIA of the Assumption campus community. The Philosophy courses simply were insufficient to quench my thirst to learn more about this man. On this Feast day of All Saints, as I reflect on the Mass readings, I can see how the journey that first began when it took me to the doorsteps of the Catholic Church 43 years ago has given me much more than what I was bargaining for.
The man who had aroused so much interest in me turned out to be more than just a man, he is both human and divine! He is the Word of God, “the Alpha and the Omega” that all wisdoms of this world come from and must return to, including the wisdom of every single philosopher that I’ve studied (Jn 1:1, Rev 21:6)! He came so that the world “might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are”, John marvels in the 2nd reading (1 Jn 3:1).
The doors of the Church that I knocked on 43 years ago, looking for answers to my quest for the true meaning of life, are opening up to an abyss of mysteries far deeper than any human mind can fathom! As I walk inside and look around with reverence and awe, I find myself standing on holy ground. I can relate to how Moses must have felt when he stood on Mt. Horeb in front of the burning bush (cf. Ex 3:1-5). When I look further, I realize I’m not alone. I see, as John does in this Sunday’s first reading, “a vision of a great multitude” – hundreds of thousands of people “from every nation, race, people, and tongue”, wearing white robes made “white in the Blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:9, 14). These are the martyrs of the universal Church! They are chanting, “Glory and holiness and praise!” together with the angels, who are countless in number.
Tiptoeing further along with my heart in my throat, I see many renowned figures that I’ve come to know through the writings of the Church Fathers. There’s St. Irenaeus of Lyons, waving at me and holding a book in his hand – his famous apologetic work, Against Heresies, in which he defends the Christian faith against heretical doctrines and traditions. Over there, on the other side of this heavenly place, stands St. Justin Martyr, wearing a bright and cheerful smile in spite of his horrific death. How can we thank him enough for testifying bravely to the Roman emperor of his days on how the Church worshiped (cf. CCC 1345)? And who is this medieval scholar who looks a little overweight? O, my Lord! Could this be St. Thomas Aquinas? He’s still working on Summa Theologica, the uncompleted work he left behind when he died in 1274. This is a little overwhelming! Where am I? Why am I in the midst of all these martyrs and saints?
Like all children of God, the Mystical Body of Christ is my true dwelling place day in and day out. We receive spiritual nourishments and graces lavishly and unceasingly from the Head of the Body – Christ himself (cf. Eph 5:23). We are drawn closer to Christ in the unity of this holy communion by the intercessory prayers of the saints (CCC 956-7). As a resident in Canada, we must observe the law of the country. Similarly, to be worthy of the privilege of the children of God, we must follow Jesus’ teaching. The Beatitudes in this Sunday’s gospel are in many ways “the new Torah brought by Jesus” that requires our close adherence (Jesus of Nazareth I, p.68). I will certainly do my best to follow his teaching and make sure I remain in his Mystical Body. Hopefully in my next Mystical Body experience, I’d be able to bump upon St. Augustine! Oh, I wouldn’t mind seeing St. John Paul II too!