In the Psalm today we hear these words:
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?”
I remember the first time I saw real mountains. I went to Colorado the summer after I graduated from high school. I was on a hiking trip with my Scout troop, and we were on a three-day backpacking trip up a mountain in the Front Range of southern Colorado–one of the 14’ers, as they call them, because the summit is over 14,000 feet above sea level. It was June, and I remember being in awe as I gazed up from the base and took in the immensity of this rock, covered halfway up with forests and with snow still clinging to its peak. To me, a West Texas flatlander, this mountain was the most massive thing I had ever seen in my life. The trip up the mountain was arduous, but joyful. There was a joyful anticipation shared by everyone in the group. When we were about 400 feet from the top, we stopped for a rest and to take in the view that I never expected–a veritable ocean of countless mountain peaks stretching Westward as far as we could see, many of them even bigger than the mountain on which I was standing. I thought I was in awe before, but nothing prepared me for that view. A great multitude of mountains, each of them unique, stretching heavenward into a deep blue sky. And I wished that I could have climbed them all.
When I think about the Saints, I think about they are like that sea of mountain peaks. I could stand in such awe of just one of them, and wonder at how unique each one is, how they may have been difficult characters with rough edges, or graceful and soaring, but in the end they are clothed in white and they stand in grandeur in praise of God. But then, I think that there are countless others who I never even knew, each unique, each massive figures in their own right.
And I think about the snow resting on each one, so many flakes that have fallen, each unique, only to melt and become a river in a long, long, journey to the sea. And upon reaching it, the tide rising up to meet it, as if to say, “welcome home.”
I think about climbing the mountain, and how it’s like the many trials each of the saints faced as they strove for holiness. They would have spent lots of time in the valley before reaching the next peak. How many difficulties they endured, sometimes with only brief reassurances that they were on the right track, like blazes along the trail.
Yes, climbing that mountain was an awe-inspiring sight. And I can only imagine what John’s vision must have been like—a great multitude gathered around the throne and around the Lamb, wearing white garments made clean in the blood of the Lamb. A real vision of Heaven.
We have gathered here at Mass today for a similar vision.
We see a throne.
We see the altar where the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, will come to us in the Eucharist.
We see people wearing white robes.
And we see a multitude: God’s people gathered around in worship of the Lamb.
Today, on this Solemnity of All Saints, Jesus takes us up a mountain. He is preaching his Sermon on the Mount, and he’s giving us a picture of those who will be called Blessed. If blessedness is like climbing a mountain, then it seems that Jesus is answering this question we just heard in the Psalm: “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?” The meek, the peacemaker, the merciful.
That’s you, brothers and sisters. You are called to be his saints, his holy ones. Have you ever thought of yourself that way? As Saint Doris of Abbott, or Saint Mary Ann of Penelope? That’s your vocation, it’s your call. God has destined each of you for greatness! One day, All Saints will by YOUR feast day!
“Oh father, I’m no saint!” Well, not yet, but let’s not forget that the Saints in Heaven were once sinners too. They walked this Earth and braved its trials just like you are doing right now. But they didn’t give up. You see, that’s the key to holiness. It’s pressing onward even when our trials seem overwhelming. It’s seeking blessedness even when we are mourning, or persecuted, or poor in spirit. It’s cooperating with the graces that God gives us.
The Saints in Heaven are there because they allowed God’s grace to penetrate their lives and touch every aspect of it. And they are up there, a mighty cloud of witnesses, praying for us and saying, “keep going! keep going!”
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? You can, brothers and sisters. Heaven is calling.