by Br Julian McDonald cfc
“Count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or tell lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort, and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens…for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” Matthew 5, 1-12
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul made the following, startling statement: “You are God’s chosen race, God’s saints; God loves you” (Colossians 3, 12). He then proceeded to describe what those who are so dear to God actually look like: “So, you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it was for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful. Let this message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home in you” (Colossians 3, 12-16).
That is surely what living in the spirit of the Beatitudes (today’s gospel-reading from Matthew) is all about. The celebration of All Saints is an invitation to stop to remind ourselves of all those people, all those saints, who, in their efforts to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes, have had an impact for good on us.
As a way of making meaning for ourselves of this celebration of All Saints, I suggest we list all the “saints” in our lives who have helped us to grow into the people we have become. These are the “saints” who are meant to be at the centre of today’s celebration. These are the people who have had an impact for good on us. Some of them have already gone to God; others are still alive. Some, even, have become physically distanced from us because of the circumstances of their lives and of ours. But we remember them with gratitude. So, let’s begin by finding a quiet, reflective space and writing down those saints of ours who come to mind as we look back over our life.
The people whom you and I will list are, for the most part, very ordinary people – our neighbours, those we meet in the supermarket and at our parish gatherings, those who bother politicians by calling them to support the elderly consigned to nursing homes, those who walk our streets visiting the forgotten, the lonely and the shut-ins, those who take the trouble to demonstrate for the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. They are the ones who reflect Jesus to us as they touch us and our world.
They are people who have learned to see and appreciate that all they have and are has come freely from the boundless love and generosity of God. Because of that, they are able to share their lives, talents, time and possessions, without a second thought, with those whom they encounter, especially those most in need. We have met them, we know them, and we are inspired by them. We are the richer and wiser, the freer and more generous ourselves because their lives have intersected with ours.
So, let’s take our lists and quietly thank God for the saints who have found their way to us.
To add to the richness of this experience, might I suggest that we invite those with whom we live and work closely to draw up their lists and to share them. After all, the saints on each one’s list are the identifiable markers in the story of God’s love for us over a life-time. The sharing we all do has the potential to heighten both our sense of gratitude and to sharpen our sensitivity to all with whom we engage every single day. All this is a very simple way of participating in today’s gospel-reading, and re-connecting with the saints we have met.
Enjoy the experience!