Home » Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 31st October 2021 – All Saints Day

Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 31st October 2021 – All Saints Day

Dear sisters and brothers,

Ancient eastern orthodox art often portrays the virtues of faith, hope and charity as sisters, with wisdom being their mother.  In those images, Hope is always the central sister, running forward eagerly and pulling her two sisters along slightly behind her.  Each is the fruit of Wisdom, but Hope has a certainty about the blessings that God has in store for us, and so cannot help but rush forward to claim those blessings.

Many members of the early church came to faith because of such hope.  In the very first years after Jesus’ Resurrection, most of them came from the poorer classes of society, many even being slaves, and the reason that Christianity stirred their hearts was that they were inspired by the promise and the hope of a better life to come; eternal life where there would be no more suffering, pain or death.  And this has been the consolation for Christians across the millennia.  On the whole, people have known that life is hard and unpredictable, and they have trusted in and hoped for that better life that lies beyond death.

In the last couple of centuries, we have been sold the myth that this life is all there is, and so we’ve been encouraged to live it by seeking pleasure in the here and now.  Sadly, this has led to a greater degree of selfishness and despair, and faith, charity and hope have diminished.  There is a need to rediscover hope in Jesus Christ, and in all that his death and Resurrection have meant to us, so that faith can be stirred once more and charity increase.  Suffering, pain and death remain a reality, and so does the promise of eternal life.  Even many of us who are part of the Church need to hear this message again, because our faith has diminished amidst this culture of selfishness and despair.

Readings like today’s, from the Book of Revelation and the first letter of St John, helped the early Church to get in touch with this hope.  Many of them were persecuted, and the Book of Revelation helped them to see that their persecutions, maybe even their martyrdom, would ultimately lead to the best of outcomes; dwelling in a place of permanent love with God forever – the perfect place.  And St John’s letter highlights that God the Father has adopted us, in his great love, as his children: that life in this world is temporary and passing, but that our ultimate homeland, the perfect home, is heaven.  We are all made by our loving Father to be saints, and to join all the saints in heaven when our time comes.  Pope Benedict’s prayer, when he came to Britain, was that we would all become saints for the 21st century.

And Jesus gives us the model of how to grow into our sainthood in the Beatitudes that were shared with us in the Gospel today.  I read this week that the Beatitudes present us with Jesus’ vocation, his calling.  And if they express his vocation, they express ours as well, because, as his disciples, we are called to live life based on his principles, as best we can.  When we do our best to do so, even if we trip up, we are on route to heaven, and we can carry that great hope in our hearts to sustain us through this life.  The blessing that the Beatitudes speak of is the promise of a perfect life, lived in a perfect place, with the perfect Father forever.

And how might we understand Jesus’ vocation, and our own, in today’s world? They are each a call.  A call to recognise our need of God, acknowledging that we, as human being’s, don’t have all the answers.  A call to come alongside people in their need, gently helping those who are mourning, suffering and in pain, and revealing the Father’s mercy to those who are burdened; just think of the Father with the Prodigal Son.  They are a call to integrity, to a search for God’s truth alone, to purity and to peace.  And they are a call to die to self, for each of us to take up our cross and follow him, through death into the Resurrection.  They are a call to reflect on Jesus’ final words in the Beatitudes, for this is where the promise and the hope lie: “rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven”.

It’s interesting that the Beatitudes are given on a mountain top.  Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.  However, he then took them down to the people below.  The Beatitudes are Jesus’ new commandments to us, but he invites all his disciples onto the mountain top, into his presence, to learn directly from him.  There’s no need for special access to be granted to a limited number of disciples; all are welcome.

So, as we celebrate All Saints Day, let’s pray that each of us grows in our ability to follow where Jesus leads us as children of the Father, to model our lives on his life and to hope in the wonder of the perfect life to come.  Let us rejoice and be glad that our reward will be great in heaven!

With every blessing,

Simon