Every 1st day of November each year, the Church all over the world celebrates the feast of all saints in heaven.This great Christian feast was introduced by Pope Gregory the fourth who reigned from December 827 to January 844. All saints day is a holy day of obligation when Catholic faithful celebrate the lives and works of their saintly men and women. It is obligatory that every Christian must attend a Church service on this particular day unless he or she has a cogent excuse, such as severe illness. All the same, various countries have different rules according to their national Bishops” conferences; the Bishops of each conference have the authority to amend the rules surrounding the obligations of the day.
On this day, we honour these spiritual heroes, both the ones known and those of them who could not receive public recognition in the liturgical set up of the Church like mine and your grand and great grandfather. It is important to note at this point that those of them who are not proclaimed saints by men owing to human limitations have been sainted by God in heaven. On this day, we commemorate the feast of our future birth in the Kingdom of God. In a more particular way we celebrate our brothers and sisters in faith who have achieved eternal life through perseverance. To join this company at the end of time is the highest human aspiration of every true Christian. It is the ultimate reason why we are found daily in our various Churches; it is the reason why we choose to accept all forms of humiliations, insults, calumny and indeed forgive all those who have offended us in any way without waiting for them to ask for forgiveness. To attain sainthood is the reason why we bear all form of wrongs and hurts patiently. It is the reason why we embrace the life of poverty, simplicity and long suffering. In summary, this ultimate vision of God is the reason for our existence here on earth.
On a day like this set apart for meditation, we venerate our spiritual forefathers, our spiritual idols, and our spiritual ancestors. We recall these great men and women who not only persevered in their struggle against sin but actually lived their lives in such a way that they built up Christ Kingdom while on earth. These saints are great men and women who ran their earthly race to the finish. These are people who kept the faith and now they are resting in the bosom of our Lord and master, Jesus Christ whose footsteps they followed.
It is important to note at this point that the human mind is incapable of grasping the glory of heaven. In the words of St. Paul, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” … the things God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Cor. 2:9).
Therefore, let no Christian be deceived by false prophets all over Nigeria today who preach the gospel of earthly prosperity. Some of these so called men and women of God tend to promise their adherents heaven on earth. Our Lord Jesus Christ never promises us a pain-free world. Christ rather prepares us with the gospel messages for crosses and persecutions as gateways to our heavenly home.
Today, the Church invites allof us who are called her children to reflect on the types of life we are living and what may be our final destination when death knocks on our doors.In essence, this feast we are celebrating resounds as a wakeup call to you and me and particularly to our leaders both in the Church and in the civil society. It is an alert signal to those leaders who trample on their subjects without qualms of conscience. It is a danger sign to those political leaders who wallow in greed, injustice and destruction of lives and properties of their fellow citizens, those who want to lead by all means. It looms a clarion call to some present day leaders who squander public funds on frivolous projects. It is a loudspeaker to political contestants who have made stealing of votes with violence and fighting with guns for rulership part of the landscape. The feast beckons on the leaders who have continued to feed the poor with misery and sadness. It calls all of us to a total change of heart.
As we rejoice with the saints, we are called upon to flee from God’s wrath, mend our ways and become living saints. One does not need to be a super star to be counted as a saint. The characteristic of a saint is not even a great personality. The characteristic of a saint is not wealth or position in the Church.
On the other hand, sainthood is mature friendship with God; a friendship so deep and so strong that it permits us to experience the joy of eternal life even while on earth battling with various worldly ills and other human vicissitudes.
Today as Nigeria and indeed Imo state is undergoing a lot of mournful metamorphosis in the name of governance, we pray for the grace to persevere and the gift of joy in the midst of the prevalent hardships and man-made odds. We also pray for the grace to forgive our leaders as Christ did to his executioners as we pray that all of us may be counted among the saints at the end of time.
Rev. Fr. George WC. Nwachukwu