Beside the handful of saints whose feast days we celebrate on specific days in the year, there are countless other saints and martyrs, men, women and children united with God in the heavenly glory whom we do not celebrate. Many of these would be our own parents and grandparents who were heroic women and men of faith.
Today we keep their honourable memory. In many ways, therefore, All Saints Day can be called the feast of the Unknown Saint, in line with the tradition of the Unknown Soldier.
This celebration gives us a peek into our eternal destiny. The saints we celebrate were men and women like us. Where we are now they used to be, and where they are now we hope to be someday.
As Christians we know that a person's life story is not limited to what happens to them between the day they are born and the day they die. Our story starts before we are born, at our conception, and goes beyond the day we die, to all eternity. That is why we do not simply forget people after they die.
Didn't St Thérèse of Lisieux say that she would spend eternity doing good on earth? In our mortal eyes she is dead and gone. But in the eyes of faith we know that she is alive now more than ever, because she is now fully alive in God. She is now more alive than we are because the life she now enjoys can no longer be diminished by suffering, disease and sin, or death.
Unfortunately, our reaching the fullness of life with the saints does not happen automatically: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
How do we live a life of doing the will of our heavenly Father? The answer is given us in the Beatitudes, where Jesus gives his followers a road map to a happy eternity. All the saints we celebrate walked the hard and narrow path of the Beatitudes to arrive at heavenly bliss. On the feast of All Saints the Church invites us and challenges us to walk the walk, not just to talk the talk, of the saints.
The above are edited extracts from a homily by Nigerian priest, Fr Munachi Ezeogu, cssp. His website is at www.munachi.com