TO KNOW: In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus revealed the character he required of his followers. The “Beatitudes” that Jesus exalted was the attitude of trust and humility represented by the poor, the suffering and persecuted. At the time of Jesus, affliction was thought to be punishment for sin, and good health and material prosperity were seen as rewards for one’s righteousness. Jesus reversed human expectations of those who were thought to be fortunate – the rich, powerful and complacent people. He announced that true happiness was not found in wealth and power. Jesus promised eternal reward for all who humbly sought God’s will despite hardships. But the “blessedness” that the disciples received was not some future glory; it is the blessedness that exists in the here and now. Jesus exemplified every Beatitude. He was poor (Mt 8:20) and gentle and meek (11:29). He grieved over sin and hungered and thirsted for God’s justice (12:18). He was merciful (12:16-21) and single-hearted in his desire to do God’s will (26:39). Jesus suffered persecution and died to bring about God’s kingdom (27:50). He gave us the ideal that every Christian should constantly pursue in order to be holy people, worthy of God’s reign.
TO LOVE: Which of the Beatitudes do I most need to put into practice today?
To achieve success in any field requires hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and the willingness to meet and even exceed certain requirements.
Today, we as a Church honour all those people throughout the ages who achieved success as Christians, who became saints – those officially recognized by the Church, those admired as such by their relatives and friends, and those known only to God.
The first reading focuses us for today’s solemnity. In the Book of Revelation, St. John reports “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue” (Revelation 7:9).
This is Good News. Salvation has come not only for Israel, but for the Gentiles as well. Here is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham, that by his seed all the nations of the world would bless themselves
In our second reading, St. John tells us that to be “saints” means to be “children of God”—and then he adds: “so we are”! Note that he speaks in the present tense.
Yet John also says that we have unfinished business to tend. We are already God’s children, but “what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” Thus we work out our salvation: “Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
We do this as we share the life of Christ, who defined earthly beatitude for us.
Joining the company of those saints is the goal of every Christian. Every Christian hopes to be welcomed to the kingdom of heaven and to be part of that “great multitude” described in the Book of Revelation, “from every nation, race, people, and tongue” that stands before the throne of God.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12), we hear the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Living according to the words of Jesus found in that sermon and throughout the Gospels will gradually transform us into those good and holy persons God wishes us to be.
But Jesus shows us how to be successful Christians not only by his words but also by giving us his Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, who guided Jesus in his life and that has guided the Church over the centuries, was given to us at our Baptism and Confirmation. If we are attentive to the working of the Spirit in our lives we will one day join that “great multitude” of successful Christians we honour this Sunday, All Saints Day.
For example, the Spirit of God is at work in our lives when we read a request in the parish bulletin and we think, “I could do that.” When we see a person at work or in school obviously upset, and we feel moved to offer a word of comfort and support. When we are about to discard a letter appealing for funds to assist the suffering, and we are moved to take a second look. When a line in a homily pricks our conscience and we realize that message is meant for us. When we are faced with a moral decision, and suddenly a pertinent quote of Jesus comes to mind.
When such things happen, the Spirit of Jesus is at work, guiding, directing, and encouraging us to take the path that leads to sainthood.
Successful Christians are those who follow the words of Jesus found in the Sermon on the Mount. Successful Christians are also those who recognize those everyday inspirations of the Holy Spirit and who follow them!
This means that you – yes YOU! – can be a saint! You have exactly what it takes, because God gave it to you! Your sainthood will not look like anyone else’s sainthood. Perhaps you have an idea of what that may look like – you have a strong sense of what God is calling you to, at least for now, but remember that God is full of surprises! Or, you may not have any idea of what your sainthood looks like, because right now it is too clouded by trying to be someone whom you are not. The second reading tells us: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed” (1 JN 3:2). You are God’s child, and your path to sainthood will be continually revealed throughout your life.
Our Gospel today gives us a roadmap of holiness in the beatitudes, though the specific route you take is up to you! To which beatitudes do you relate? Which make you uncomfortable and ask you to grow beyond your comfort zone? We are always growing closer to God and to God’s plan for us. The beatitudes give us hope and direction on this journey. And the best part is that along the way, we have a multitude of holy men and women praying us into sainthood.