Solemnity of All Saints
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven." Entrance Antiphon: “Let us all rejoice in the Lord, as we celebrate the feast day in honor of all the Saints, at whose festival the Angels rejoice and praise the Son of God.” First Reading: Rev 7:2-4, 9-14 — “I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” Responsorial Psalm: Ps 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6 — “Lord, this is the people that longs to see Your face.” Second Reading: 1 Jn 3:1-3 — “We shall see God as He is.” Alleluia: Mt 11:28 — Alleluia, alleluia. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest, says the Lord.” Alleluia, alleluia. Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a — “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Communion Antiphon: Mt 5:8-10 — “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” During my years in high school, beginning with the summer before I began as a freshman at Bishop Eustace, we were given a number of books to read. And then, when school then started in the fall, there was an exam to see if we did indeed read them. My freshman year, one of the books to read was To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Since then, it has become one of my favorites. During the school year, we also had the opportunity to see the movie. And in the film version, Gregory Peck masterfully renders Atticus Finch’s seven-minute summary to the jury in the trial of Tom Robinson. Toward the close, he says, “I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system. That is no ideal to me – it is a living, working reality!” In today’s Gospel, we hear Saint Matthew’s telling of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Like Atticus Finch’s belief in the reality of the judicial system of the United States, the Beatitudes are far more than sweet, soothing sayings ... they are realistic, practical statements of Christian living, rooted in trust. If you think that they are high-sounding, idealistic words, you’re mistaken. They are meant to be a living, working reality for those who would belong to the kingdom of God. Every now and then, it’s good to learn a bit about what the Beatitudes are and a bit about what they might mean. So, consider the next few minutes to be a brief introductory course ... Beatitudes 101. According to Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Christ gave us the eight (8) Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. In them, the word “blessed” means fortunate, or to be in a favorable position. In some translations of the Bible, the word “blessed” is sometimes replaced by the word “happy.” To replace the word “blessed” with the word “happy” doesn’t really work. The meaning sought is archaic. In today’s society, “happy” doesn’t have the rich definition that it once did. The Beatitudes are statements of fact, of objective reality. It is not, “May the peacemakers be blessed” at some future occasion. The peacemakers are blessed, here and now. Several of the Beatitudes speak of blessedness in spite of a current hardship. These are probably the originals ... they are the four (4) also found in Saint Luke’s Gospel ... in a section often referred to as the Sermon on the Plain. Their conclusion or “second part” points to a reversal of the hardship mentioned. Some speak of blessedness resulting from kingdom behavior. Thus, the merciful shall receive mercy. Karl Marx once said that “Religion is the opium of the people,” asserting that the promise of next world happiness lulls people away from working to set this world right today ... here and now. This was a great irony because, as history has demonstrated over and over again, Marxism produced misery for the masses, while those who work hardest to set this world right are believers in the next world. Marx thought that blessedness was actually caused by a dire situation such as poverty or persecution. This produced a distorted spirituality of consciously seeking to be miserable. As Christians, we know that the opposite is true: The blessedness comes in spite of the dire situation and is linked to a future hope through present trust. It might be said that the Beatitudes are (simply) beautiful, inspirational sayings, but they’re not realistic guidelines for living and acting – who on earth can actually do that? But remember the words of today’s Gospel. We see that it says that Jesus “taught the people.” From this we know that He was not simply entertaining them with sweet greeting card verses that we might find inside a card from Hallmark or American Greetings. We also know that no one can do this alone, but empowered by grace, the grace of God, of course we can. So what are characteristics of Beatitude people? · Well, first I believe that they are accepting people. They do not seek hardship, but accept it with calmness if it comes. · They are gentle people. They deal with others gently because they are aware of their own fragility. · They are unafraid to be countercultural. They refuse to make temporal success their god or their only goal. · They see through and beyond current negatives to the fulfillment of the kingdom; hence they are people of trust and hope. The question and the challenge remains ... are we people of the beatitudes? On this feast of All Saints, remember that “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress.” They are loyal and trusting in spite of adversity ... a Beatitude quality. “[A] great multitude, which no one could count” holds our departed loved ones and all who have trusted in the Lord. They are our examples and our guides. During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI said, “To become saints means to fulfill completely what we already are, raised to the dignity of God’s adopted children in Christ Jesus ... Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ Himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom His own light becomes visible.” As we gather around this table and are about to celebrate the Body and Blood of Jesus, let’s ask for the grace, the strength, and the courage to live as He taught us in the Beatitudes. Today we rejoice in the Lord and keep this festival in honor of all the saints. Today we join with the angels in joyful praise of the Son of God. May we, like all of the saints in heaven, become people of the Beatitudes. May God bless you.