On this day, the feast of All Saints, in the year 1541, Michaelangelo‘s Last Judgement was unveiled on the rear wall of the Sistine Chapel.
There was no coincidence in the date: the feast of All Saints was a most appropriate day to dedicate this masterpiece of world art.Michaelangelo’s ceiling tells the story of our salvation history: the encounter of the ultimate plan of God, and human history.
The rear wall looks forward to the future eternal reality, to those souls who have embraced eternal life and love with God, and those who have rejected the eternal fulness of life.
So why has God created us all? What was God’s plan and purpose in setting each of us on this earth to be participants in the history of salvation?
Those who remember their catechism have the answer: Q. Why did God make you? A. “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven”.
Take a moment to consider this sound answer. Note the two ‘dimensions’ of our eternal relationship with God. In our baptism we began this journey towards ultimate intimacy with God. This first stage of life continues until our death.
In these earthly years we experience joy, hope, grief and anxiety. In every moment we are offered saving intimacy with God. The deepest desire of the human person is not to be free of grief and anxiety. Instead our deepest longing is ‘to know, love and to serve God, and to be happy with him forever.’
And death is the moment of transition from the first ‘dimension’ of human existence, into the eternal realm. Our human purpose is found when we know our desire for God above all else. When we rest with this desire, especially in the midst of struggle and suffering, we experience God’s presence and peace.
This life is the life of the saint.
In today’s feast we celebrate those who have followed this path on earth, and who now share the eternal fullness of God’s life in the Communion of the Saints
Pope Francis reflects on the Feast of All Saints 2013
Hope is a little like leaven that expands our souls. There are difficult moments in life, but with hope the soul goes forward and looks ahead to what awaits us. Today is a day of hope. Our brothers and sisters are in the presence of God and we shall also be there, through the pure grace of the Lord, if we walk along the way of Jesus. The Apostle John concludes: “every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (v. 3). Hope also purifies us, it lightens us; this purification in hope in Jesus Christ makes us go in haste, readily. Today before evening falls each one of us can think of the twilight of life: “What will my passing away be like?”. All of us will experience sundown, all of us! Do we look at it with hope? Do we look with that joy at being welcomed by the Lord? This is a Christian thought that gives us hope. Today is a day of joy; however it is serene and tranquil joy, a peaceful joy. Let us think about the passing away of so many of our brothers and sisters who have preceded us, let us think about the evening of our life, when it will come. And let us think about our hearts and ask ourselves: “Where is my heart anchored?”. If it is not firmly anchored, let us anchor it beyond, on that shore, knowing that hope does not disappoint because the Lord Jesus does not disappoint.
Pope Benedict reflects on the Feast of All Saints in 2006
“This, then, is the meaning of today’s Solemnity: looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and solemnly proposed today for our attention”But how can we become holy, friends of God?
We can first give a negative answer to this question: to be a Saint requires neither extraordinary actions or works nor the possession of exceptional charisms. Then comes the positive reply: it is necessary first of all to listen to Jesus and then to follow him without losing heart when faced by difficulties. “If anyone serves me”, he warns us, “he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honour him” (Jn 12: 26)
“Like the grain of wheat buried in the earth, those who trust him and love him sincerely accept dying to themselves. Indeed, he knows that whoever seeks to keep his life for himself loses it, and whoever gives himself, loses himself, and in this very way finds life (cf. Jn 12: 24-25)
“The Church’s experience shows that every form of holiness, even if it follows different paths, always passes through the Way of the Cross, the way of self-denial. The Saints’ biographies describe men and women who, docile to the divine plan, sometimes faced unspeakable trials and suffering, persecution and martyrdom. They persevered in their commitment: “they… have come out of the great tribulation”, one reads in Revelation, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rv 7: 14). Their names are written in the book of life (cf. Rv 20: 12) and Heaven is their eternal dwelling-place
“The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him.