I had a vision of a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue. They stood before the throne (of God), wearing white robes. REVELATION 7:9
Immediately after we were baptized, we were dressed in a white robe. When it was placed on us, the priest or deacon addressed us by name, saying these words: “You have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”
In the reading cited above, St. John gets a glimpse, across many generations to come, of a “great multitude which no one can count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, dressed in white robes, standing before the throne of God.”
Today’s feast reminds us that all of the baptized, including you and me, are called to stand before God with that great, uncountable throng of people from every part of the world, from every age. We are heaven bound; we are called to become saints!
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vatican Council II, we need to remember that one of its greatest teachings was “the universal call to holiness.” It is laid out beautifully in Lumen Gentium. It says, “Every person should walk unhesitatingly according to his own gifts and duties in the path of a living faith which arouses hopes and works through charity.”
My favorite definition of sanctity comes from Kentucky’s famous Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. This is the definition of holiness that guides me personally. “Sanctity,” he writes, “is not a matter of being less human, but more human than other men. This implies a greater capacity for concern, for suffering, for understanding, for sympathy, and also for humor, for joy, for appreciation of the good and beautiful things of life.”
Holiness, then, is not about being perfect, but about becoming the very best human being we can become — the best spouse, the best parent, the best church member, the best student, the best doctor, the best teacher, the best politician, the best artist, the best social worker or the best priest.
Someday, after we have done something with our lives, after we have become all we can be, God will call us home to be with him forever. At our funerals, we will be carried into church, one last time. Our bodies will be sprinkled with baptismal water and we will be covered with a large white pall, a huge white baptismal robe.
At the end of our funeral Mass, dressed in that white robe, surrounded by our family and friends, the priest will commend us to God with these words, “May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city. … May choirs of angels welcome you.” And then, we too will be saints!