Commentary on the Gospel of
Solemnity of All Saints
In three days (i.e., on Nov. 4), Sr. Rani Maria will be beatified. As a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, she worked among the poor and marginalized in Madhya Pradesh (Central India). Her work of educating the poor about their rights brought her into conflict with landlords and money-lenders. On February 25, 1995, Samundar Singh (a hitman) stabbed her 54 times while she travelled in a public bus. Most of the passengers ran away in fear; none came to her rescue. She died on the road.
Our story does not end here. Samundar Singh was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Sr. Rani Maria’s family members, however, visited him in prison. Her mother kissed his hands as a sign of forgiveness. Sr. Selmy (younger sister of Rani Maria and a member of the same congregation) tied a “rakhi,” or sacred thread, on the hand of Samundar, signifying that he was her brother. Samundar repented and was released in 2006. (Please see the documentary film — The Heart of a Murderer — winner at the World Interfaith Harmony Film Festival of 2013.)
I share this story of Sr. Rani Maria with you as we celebrate today the feast of all the holy women and men in heaven. Like this brave nun, there are many people from different times and places who have given witness by their faith, courage, love, forgiveness, humility, or commitment, among other virtues. Some of them have been canonized saints, others have joined the communion of saints by being who they were or by doing the best that they could — cooking in kitchens for their families, filing papers in crowded offices, teaching naughty children in classrooms, or by tilling the fields under the hot sun.
Yes, as today’s Gospel explains, they are “blessed” for they lived and loved unselfishly. The Beatitudes (blessings) describe the saints — they refused to conform to the values of the world, to live self-centered lives. Rather, they were sensitive to the needs of their neighbors. They chose to be meek rather than arrogant, to live with a poverty of spirit rather than with inflated egos, to work for what is right (God’s will), and to live with pure (sincere) hearts. People may have laughed at them, but the saints got their reward: “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Today’s readings invite us to reflect: one day we will join these saints who have gone before us. Yes, we remember that God wants all of us to be saved. The passage we listen to in the first reading from the Book of Revelations was written to provide strength and comfort to the early Christians persecuted by Nero. The great multitude stands before God; they survived the time of great distress and they are washed in the “Blood of the Lamb.” We are invited to stand firm and live lives of faith that are just. The second reading reminds us of God’s amazing love for each one of us and provides us with hope: one day, like Sr. Rani Maria, our grandparents, and all the saints, we will meet God face to face. Now, isn’t that a wonderful promise?