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Gospel Reflection – All Saints

This Sunday the usual cycle is interrupted as we celebrate the solemnity of All Saints, and the readings highlight how we don’t just celebrate the saints who have gone before us, but – by reflecting on them – recognise that we are on the path to being saints ourselves; yes even us!!!

In our first reading from the Book of the Apocalypse we here about the saints in heaven who have gone through some kind of martyrdom for their faith, but we also hear about those still on earth marked by God with the sign that says these are also saints, to be protected for their future heavenly destiny.  And our second reading reminds us of the depth of the Father’s love for each and every one of us, and how we are destined to be like him.  So, what do we conclude from these reflections?  Firstly, that we are destined to be saints ourselves, but that the road to that sanctity is through whatever our version of martyrdom is.

For the saints mentioned in the Apocalypse that martyrdom seems to have been to die for their faith; something which we know still goes on in our world today.  But, as St Augustine wrote, there are many types of martyrdom.  The word ‘martyr’ literally means ‘to witness’, and that witness can come in many, many different ways.  The challenge for us may not be to die for our faith, but probably to be misunderstood, misrepresented and ridiculed for it by people who either don’t understand or would like to undermine us.  And the Gospel, Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes, gives us an insight into what that involves.

In it, Jesus states that we will be happy or blessed – a better translation may be ‘fulfilled’ – if we follow these ‘attitudes of being’ that he lays before us.  So how are we to understand them:

– Blessed are the poor in spirit – we find fulfilment when we recognise our need of God, and that we can’t achieve the things of God in our own strength.  As a child trusts a parent to help them grow, we must trust God to give us the wisdom needed for each day, and that means spending quality time with him.

– Blessed the gentle – we find fulfilment when we approach the people that we have to deal with in love, seeking to understand where their negative reactions come from, and praying for healing for them in their struggles.

– Blessed those who mourn – we find fulfilment when we enter into the grief of others and the grief of the world.  This can be on a personal level, with someone who has lost a loved one, or as we pray for the state of the world and take practical steps to alleviate it’s problems, be that in terms of the environment, situations of oppression, lamenting the impact of Covid-19 on the world or many, many others.

– Blessed those who hunger and thirst for what is right – we find fulfilment when have the strength to stand up against the choices that society makes which we know to be wrong in the eyes of the Lord.  Again, there’s a vast range here from abortion and euthanasia, to challenging investment in things as varied as the arms trade and pornography, and the undermining of family life.  The list could go on…and on!…including tonight, the celebration of evil that Halloween has become.  It may appear just a bit of fun, but in reality some of the activities that take place give approval to the things of Satan, rather than the celebration of the saints that it was meant to be.

– Blessed the merciful – we find fulfilment when we show mercy to others as God shows mercy to us, to forgive even when it feels impossible, to express the mercy that Jesus showed all of us on the Cross when he said: “forgive them Father; they know not what they do”.  Those words ring true for all humanity today, and God wants us to hold everyone in our love as he ran to welcome the prodigal son into his loving embrace.

– Blessed the pure in heart – we find fulfilment when we are people of integrity.  For us, as people of faith in Christ, this means holding firm and true to the teachings of Christ and His Church, even though at times we may personally struggle with those teachings…and we all struggle at times.

– Blessed the peacemakers – we find fulfilment when we have the self-control not to react to situations that make us frustrated or angry, when we choose to pour oil on troubled waters rather than stir them up, either in the moment or with gossip and slander after the event.  Similarly, we are to build a culture of peace and understanding in our homes and workplaces, and to try to influence our world for peace as best we can.  It may be that we join organisations that work for peace and healing, or that we discern wisely how to use our vote, that the kingdom of God may become ever more real in our world.

– Blessed those who are persecuted in the cause of right…Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account – we find fulfilment when this refers to us, because we’ve lived our life as a beatitude and people have noticed; noticed to such a degree that they choose to oppose us because they don’t understand or agree.  It’s an extremely hard place to be, but remember how Jesus concluded this teaching:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’”

We regularly pray: Hail Mary…blessed art thou amongst women…  As Mary is blessed for living her life fully for God, so will each of us be, as we choose to live our lives as faithfully to the Beatitudes as we can.  Let us pray for the strength to do so and ask our Lady’s prayers that we succeed.

 

With every blessing,

Simon