“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb!”
“Never give up!” That is a very popular message on t-shirts here in the Philippines. I don’t know the history of this message on the shirts and why is it so popular. But this message always leaves me thinking, “This is the motto, the slogan, and the mindset of the Saints!” The saints are not those who never had failures in life or who never had grave sins in their lives or who never had struggles and sufferings in this life. The Saints are not those with a perfect history or a blissful future. The Saints are simply those who just chose never to give up.
Never gave up on what? Today’s First Reading from Revelations addressed to Christians being persecuted in the Roman empire of the first century A.D shows us three things in which the saints never gave up. First of all, they never gave up on belonging completely to God. They had been marked as belonging to God before the times of devastation, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servant of God.” God claimed them as His own even as they faced hardship. They never stopped acting out of the conviction that they and everything that they had now belonged to God.
Secondly, they never gave up on hoping and expecting all things from God. We find this in the song of the saints in heaven, “They cried out, ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.’” Salvation and the means to attain it all came from God.
Thirdly, they never gave up on the life of bearing witness to Jesus Christ even in all the trials and distresses of life. “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Like Jesus, the faithful witness, they too bore witness to Him even to the point of death as they shared in the power of His blood shed for them.
By virtue of our being incorporated into Christ in Baptism, we are really marked as belonging to God as His own Children won by the blood of Christ. In the words of St. John in the Second Reading, “Beloved, see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God. Yet so we are.” By virtue of this indelible mark on us as God’s children, God will never give up on us no matter our sins, failures, pains, worries, etc. This is not a feel good statement but one that should lead us not to give up on hoping in God completely and in witnessing to Jesus in all things. “Everyone who has this hope based on Him makes himself pure, as He is pure.”
St. John’s vision of the saints as “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue,” give us added reason not to give up – there is room for us too among the saints no matter what life has been like for us. We can receive forgiveness for all past sins through a good confession no matter how grievous or how many the sins may be. We can receive the grace to start again from prayer and from the sacraments especially the Eucharist. We can break from sinful addictions and tendencies and persevere in a life of sanctity in this world. We can receive the awesome and encouraging examples and supporting prayers of our saint brothers and sisters.
Jesus invites us to the blessed life of the saints through the Beatitudes in today’s Gospel. But we cannot live the beatitudes if we do not have the never-give-up attitude of the saints, never giving up on belonging completely to God, never giving up on hoping on God alone for everything, and never giving up on witnessing to Jesus in our life. How can we be poor in spirit or meek if we give up on belonging to God as His beloved children? How can we strive for a clean heart in this world of impurity if we give up on giving witness to Christ? How can we hunger and thirst for righteousness or bear persecution for the sake of righteousness if we give up on expecting all things necessary for this from God?
The life of Mary, Queen of all Saints, shows us that the saints are those who never gave up because they knew that God never gave up on them. Mary knew that she had been marked as belonging to God and that God would never give up on her as per the words of the Angel Gabriel, “Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God.” She never gave up on hoping to receive all things from God as she sang in her magnificat, “My soul rejoices in God my Savior.” She never gave up on giving witness to Him as she did at the wedding of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” At the Cross, during the darkest moment of her Son’s life on earth, Mary never gave up on belonging to Him, she never gave up on hoping and believing in a Resurrection and she never gave up on bearing witness to Jesus at a time when Jesus’ closest friends were too ashamed to associate with Him.
I have no doubt in my mind that Mary is in the business of making saints today because she helps us to cultivate this never-give-up attitude if we approach her with the right disposition to learn from her and to be the saints that we have been chosen and marked to be as God’s beloved children. When we turn to her in sincere prayer, she gives us a motherly reminder that we and all that we are belong to God now by virtue of our baptism, she shares with us that intense hope of hers that expects all things from God and she inspires us to continuously bear witness to Christ Jesus her Son even in the darkest moments. This is how we too will mature in our never-give-up attitude in imitation of the saints.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we live in world of pain and sin, where evil seems to triumph over good sometimes, where prayers seem to make little or no difference and God sometimes appear so far away from us, where it is more convenient to blend with the crowd than to bear the light of Christ in the world, etc. The temptation to give up is so strong. Today’s solemnity should remind us of our saintly brothers and sisters who passed through all these too and are saints today because they never gave up. We too can and should do the same.
Every Eucharist has two effects – a deepening of our consecration to God and a message of hope. As our belonging to God is strengthened in this Eucharist, we also hear the message of hope in Jesus’ words of consecration spoken over the bread and wine, “This is my body….This is my blood.” The message of hope is loud and clear – God never gives up on us as His own. If we too choose never to give up, we will live the motto of the saints here on earth and we too shall sing with them the hymn of the saints for all eternity, “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb!”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!