Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; 1John 3: 1-3; Mt 5: 1-12a
The feasts that we celebrate at the beginning of November have always been somewhat of a struggle. We, of course, have All Saints Day today which always seemed like the feast of impossibility for normal folks like ourselves. Then tomorrow we have All Souls, which on the other end, seemed like the day for those who just didn’t quite have enough stamina to make it to being saints. In the end, we’ve created this winners and losers reality with us stuck somewhere in the middle of it all, working hard, hoping to be promoted to sainthood but knowing the odds are against us and will wind up heading to this place called purgatory with the less than stellar. Well, what a crappy way to live our lives! Heck, we’ve all known people who have died that we know have lived and become holy people! Maybe it shows just how much we’ve tried to reduce it to our own language and experience rather than allowing these realities to shape us in a different way, of a God who encompasses all, the great mystical body, with endless love and mercy. Somehow our language and are drivenness to prove our worthiness and working hard at it come up short every time. Quite frankly, we’re trying to understand and know something that is way beyond our comprehension but at the same time, can deepen our faith and trust in the Lord.
The feast, though, provides the opportunity to maybe look at things differently since no saint begins that path after their death. Rather, from the moment we are born and pass through to this life we begin this journey to holiness and wholeness that is given to all. The readings today give us some framework of that path and how we consistently work towards becoming holy and saintly in this life. Keeping in mind that much of what we hear in Scripture is written for those who need encouragement in the time of great distress. It’s not window dressing and then go about our business at it sometimes can be for us. Rather, these are individual and communities that were facing constant persecution for their faith and their belief in the radicalness of a God who took on human flesh. John, the writer of Revelation which we know of as being this great apocalyptic message, gives that message of hope today. “Who are these wearing white robes?” is the question asked today. The response, “The ones who have survived the time of great distress.” Rather than seeing it as the end time of the world, it can also be viewed as the end time of this moment and God’s love always being revealed before and within us. The time of great distress for those on the path of holiness comes in our own purification, purgation we can say, of a continuous passing through into the newness of life that comes with trusting God and a deepening faith in this radical God.
Jesus, of course, lays out the blueprint for living a saintly life today and beyond. As I said earlier, looking at life from a different perspective often helps us grow into holiness, and Jesus is notorious for turning us on our heads. Today, in the Beatitudes, it is no different. To become saintly people we often must be humbled in the same way, by allowing ourselves to be turned upside down and inside out. He continuously calls us back to the “bottom” to the place of those who have been deemed losers in order to become great in his way. The reality of the afterlife as we have known is mirrored in the path we are on if we allow ourselves to enter into it. By surrendering to this process of faith, we internalize this blueprint and begin to live our lives differently, free to choose the way of the Lord. That was the struggle for Matthew’s community because they lived differently than the world had wanted or expected. In turn, they challenge everyone to live differently and more in line with the way of Jesus. When we do, holiness abounds in God’s children, as John tells us, for that is who we are and continue to become, for like God, we are a mystery that continues to unfold, never fully understood or revealed.
From the lens of God’s love and mercy, we have no need to fear the unknown of our own lives or what lies beyond them. Jesus never says to simply kick back and wait it out and hope for the best. No, he reminds his disciples over and over again to seek the greater now in this life, despite any adversities that come your way. Look it square in the face and allow it to move you to a deeper place in the mystery of you and of God. I can never be any of those other saints; all I can be and continue to become is the man that God has created me to be. That’s the path to holiness and saintliness. The more we can surrender to the love and mercy of God to free us of the worldly attitudes the more it becomes are way of life. We pray today for the intercession of all who have gone before us and continue to show and light the way for us, encouraging us along the way, to become the best of who we are, children of God. Saintliness begins now for each of us by surrendering daily to this great mystery we call God, to be revealed in fullness in the life to come!