As we come towards the end of the Church year we celebrate this great feast of All Saints. Normally we apply the word to people of extraordinary holiness who have been canonised or beatified by the Church .. but today’s feast uses the word in a much wider sense .. in particular we remember all those who have now died and are in God’s presence .. hence we read from Revelation of that great promise of heaven. What a glorious and hopeful picture!
Still further though on this day we also celebrate the saints as being all those on earth with a shared call to holiness .. so our Gospel passage focuses on the theme of holiness in this world … it presents us with the Beatitudes.
As a document on holiness, the Beatitudes is pretty rigorous. If we see it as ‘a Christian’s identity card’ as the current Pope has called it we might be somewhat overwhelmed. Living according to the Beatitudes, the Pope says, answers the question, “What must one do to be a good Christian?”
But as I say the Beatitudes may seem overwhelming, containing so much in such a short space, if we read it as a document we must fulfil in a complete sense. What I mean is that if we look at the Saints and suggest these are people who are all of the above … they are meek and peace loving and have poverty of spirit and are humble and merciful. They thirst after righteousness and rejoice when facing persecution for doing what is right. We create a picture of a super saint which none of us can live up to when we assume we must be all these things at once in order to inherit the promises of God’s blessing.
But what if rather than be all these things all the time we were called to be each of these things at the appropriate time in our lives. What if our call to this kind of life extends throughout our journey in this world and we are asked to show these qualities at certain times rather than all at once. Isn’t that a little more manageable and something we can aspire to. I think even I could say at times I have made peace .. at times I have found the grace to show mercy or act humbly. In this ongoing sense the blessing of the Beatitudes for the saints is possible for all of us. All we need to do .. I say all but I know this is not that simple .. but what we need to do is ask God to show us which Beatitude he is calling me to practice today. To dwell on that in his presence, asking for the grace to live it more fully, to see where its blessedness lies. To try to keep this particular beatitude in mind and in heart throughout my day.
In actual fact this is what we celebrate in the lives of the saints is it not when we attribute them sainthood to particular areas of life .. patron saint of particular things to which they have shown devotion and holiness .. but quite often they have had vices in other areas. Sainthood is not about a perfect human but about evidence of God’s grace in different areas at different times in our lives because we are willing to seek HIs kingdom in all things.
Therefore the saints in Glory are those whose eulogies at their funerals acknowledge not perfect people but those who had shown moments in their lives where they were peaceful, merciful, devoted and truthful .. almost all eulogies contain the words I remember a particular time when ..
The holiness we are called to in the Beatitudes is achievable when we seek to fulfill each calling at the appropriate moments in our lives .. this requires no less devotion but allows us to know God’s blessing in our broken humanity as we redeem moments and situations along the way. Some days you will feel poor in spirit and know the closeness of God’s kingdom .. some days you will mourn and be called righteous .. others you will show mercy and see God .. may God show us the blessing of a life of moments of holiness which lead us into God’s presence.