Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14
I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel:
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
In his vision of Heaven, St. John describes a “huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language” and “all saints.” Saints because sanctified, made holy, by God. A “huge number, impossible to count”: not like some horrible crowd on earth, but rather like the beauty of a vast forest—like those that cover the mountains of Montana—only a forest of humans, as perfect in their transformed way as trees already are on earth. A crowd of people who are not at their very best, but lifted far beyond their best, a crowd of people who have been divinized, that is, who have fully transformed in Christ, where God is “all in all.”
Now it is remarkable that though “no one has seen God,” God has chosen to reveal himself as a human being, and being human is thus revealed as being capable of becoming God. Jesus is to be the “first of many brethren”: the Risen Body of Jesus is the pledge of this, the “first fruits of the dead.” In his earthly life, culminating in his passion and death, Our Lord opens the way for all creation—recapitulated in every human being—to enter into eternal glory.
Essential to the dignity of the human is freedom, and that also must mean the freedom to choose not to enter into glory (if that could be true freedom!), because of the refusal to suffer the Cross which is the only way into glory. But for those who have passed through “the great persecution” in union with the loving Savior, an eternity of bliss opens up: Heaven. Here is the “great crowd of witnesses” that, unseen, surrounds us, encourages us, guides us on our way home, as we move through the “great persecution” of the world, the flesh and the devil.
We pass through the lies and deceptions, the power plays and games of all who do not know and live the lordship of Jesus and who refuse to suffer with Him. We love and serve with gentleness and kindness, and leave judgment to him, trusting that we too will come through judgment rescued and that washed by his mercy, though perhaps never canonized for public veneration on earth and so hidden from men’s eyes, we will glory in—and with—the eyes of God. The Beatific Vision: for all of us are called to be saints.
—Fr. Raymond Gawronski S.J.
Ignatius Loyola, our holy founder,
man of great desires and perfect humility,
Pray for us
Francis Xavier, courageous warrior
Ever seeking new souls for Christ
Peter Faber, first companion of Ignatius
and cherished friend of all
Edmund Campion, fearless orator and
Source of courage to the persecuted
Aloysius Gonzaga, consolation and care
for the sick and the dying
Robert Bellarmine, rich of mind
yet poor of spirit
and all the Saints of the Society of Jesus,
Pray for us.
—Excerpted from “Litany of Jesuit Saints,”
byLouis McCabe, SJ, and Philip Steele, SJ