Saints Help Us Homeward
by Rev. Richard Miserendino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:
are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven,"
The solemnity of All Saints presents us with Gospel readings that supersede the usual Sunday cycle of readings. Thus, this week’s Gospel reflection takes us to Matthew 5 and the beatitudes.
All Saints’ Day is a great day for remembering who we are and who we’re meant to be. We’re adopted children of God and citizens of a kingdom. Our destiny is to become saints, each and every one of us. We also remember that we’re not alone in that endeavor. We’re supported in that mission by the Holy Spirit, and through him all the saints of the church: a great cloud of witnesses, a staggering number of brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us in grace. They pray for us and encourage us on the way.
This also reminds us that we’re not home yet. Our citizenship is not of this world. Our homeland will never be found here on earth in perfection. However, this gives us hope. The fact that nothing in this world satisfies us is, as C.S. Lewis famously noted, proof that we are made for another world. Though this life has its troubles, they too shall pass away. We are, for all our days here below, on the way to our destiny.
The beatitudes fit into this by reminding us of that destiny: The kingdom of heaven will be ours someday, if we continue to seek it and conform our lives to enter into it. We’re meant for happiness, but the whole thrust of the beatitudes is that while blessedness is promised, the reason given for it is always in the future. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they WILL be called Children of God”. It’s true, the promise does apply to this life in a certain degree. Living a life of virtue and grace does lead to some happiness, blessedness, here and now. But the bulk of the promise behind the beatitudes always lies in that word “will”. It’s a promise for the life to come, and therefore a reminder that we’re sojourners, pilgrims just passing through to a better, more exalted destination.
The beatitudes themselves show up at many other points throughout our Catholic life. They’re a popular choice for wedding readings. They’re also a popular choice for funerals. All the same, they act as a passport stamp when we receive them, a small token, reminder and demarcation point of where we’ve been and where we’re headed. They clue us in to what it’s all about: being saints.
Years ago, I was blessed to live abroad for an extended period of time. No matter where I went or how I tried to blend in, I always was picked out as an American. I was clearly just passing through. It was likely partially how I dressed, partially how I spoke, and even how I walked and acted. No amount of language proficiency helped hide my accent. I’m a grateful American, and it’s obvious. My passport and mannerisms confirmed it.
The beatitudes also put forth a standard of conduct, a way of living for future citizens of heaven. You might consider them like the mannerisms and accent of our native land. It’s always worth asking: When people look at our life, would they be able to tell we belong to the kingdom? Would they hear in our accent an emphasis on the poor? Or note how we walk and whether it’s with swagger or humility and meekness? Would they notice our peculiar custom of mercy in a dog-eat-dog world?
We likely fall short here. But there’s the best hope possible: We have plenty of saints and angels, brothers and sisters in Christ, to help us as we continue homeward.