WelCom November 2020
Solemnity of All Saints
Gospel, Matthew 5:1-12
1 Seeing the crowds, Jesus went onto the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him.
2 Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
3 ‘How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth as inheritance.
5 Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness: they shall have their fill.
7 Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognised as children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’
Saints are next door
A reflection on Matthew 5:1-12
Dr Elizabeth Julian rndm
I see saints from all over the world everywhere in my Newtown community in Wellington – the blessed, happy, holy named in the beatitudes and celebrated in today’s feast – All Saints Day, 1 November.
The beatitudes form the heart of Jesus teaching (CCC 1716). Until now in this gospel Jesus has spoken only a few brief words of invitation. Now we get the plan! But what do the beatitudes actually mean? Variously interpreted over the years, for example as signs of the reign of God, ideals to be attained or unique virtues for Jesus’ disciples, Pope Francis takes the last approach in his beautiful reflection (Gaudete et Exultate, Ch 3). He says the beatitudes are ‘like a Christian’s identity card.… In the Beatitudes, we find a portrait of the Master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives.’
What strikes me today, is that the first eight beatitudes are in the third person plural – Blessed are they… – emphasising that we don’t live or pursue them individually. They require communal attitudes and actions now to help bring about the reign of God, signs of which are already visible in the present. In his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis argues strongly that everyone is connected, in Laudato si’ everything is connected. We are all members of one human family. Though this is not new teaching, Francis notes the Covid-19 pandemic ‘momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realised that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together.’ He hopes that, ‘After all this, we will think no longer in terms of “them” and “those”, but only “us” (FT #32)’. So, while the blessings of the beatitudes point us to the fullness of God’s reign, the qualities of discipleship required are concerned with how we live right now.
The beatitudes are bracketed by the promise of the ‘kingdom of heaven’ which Jesus came to proclaim. Based on Old Testament teaching the first three describe people usually despised or on the outer but favoured by God: those who know their dependence on God; the meek, humble or gentle; and those who mourn.
The next five beatitudes highlight certain commitments and values necessary for disciples: being in right relationship, showing mercy, acting with integrity, working for peace and reconciliation, enduring persecution for the sake of justice.
For most of the beatitudes there is a later illustrative story, for example the meek Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. You may like to recall others.
The final beatitude is addressed to the disciples themselves.
Pause for a moment and imagine our world if collectively we all lived by these values and commitments! Some people do and they are the ‘saints next door’. Who comes to mind for you? Which commitment or value do you find the most challenging to live by?