Solemnity of All Saints
(Revelations 7: 2-4, 9-141 John 3: 1-3, Matthew 5: 1-12a)
The Solemnity of All Saints is “our” celebration: not because we are good, but because the sanctity of God has touched our life. The Saints are not perfect models, rather, they are people whose lives have been touched by God. We just heard Jesus call all of us, “Blessed” (Mt 5:3). Jesus led his disciples to the mountain top and as he did on Mount Tabor, he revealed to them the depths of the Father’s heart. Once the cloud of glory enveloped them, he made known the real meaning of being blessed, of being happy. The first word in his sermon was “BLESSED”. The Greek word for “blessed” is “MAKARIOS”, considering my family name, you can understand why I like that word. Each person who is bathed in the light of Christ is “blessed”; is happy; Makarios.
Happiness does not consist in having possessions or a good reputation. Happiness consists in being conformed to the person of Jesus Christ and in pouring oneself out in the service of others. Happiness does not come from avoiding poverty, sorrow, humiliation, or persecution. Rather, the path to happiness is found by embracing poverty, sorrow, and the rest. Jesus flips the idea of Makarios, happiness, on its head. Happiness has to do with becoming dependent on God and His provident care for us. Saint Paul’s words to the church of Rome say it all. “In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us. I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39).
From the mountaintop Jesus, who was rich in the Father’s blessings became poor to make us rich in blessing. He numbered himself among those who were poor, broken-hearted, humble, and persecuted to make them recipients of the Father’s blessing. When God “blesses” us, He “extends” His benefits to us. He “enlarges” His mercy to us. He “lengthens” His charity on our behalf. By faith, we have become children of God, and as the brothers and sisters of Christ, we have become the recipients of God’s abundant mercy. The Beloved Son who is nearest to the Father’s heart becomes our pathway to God’s boundless love. He tells us that we, each and every one of us, are beloved children of God. As much as I love the rich and velvety sounds of the Greek word, MAKARIOS, it is important to remember that Jesus was not speaking Greek, rather, he spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. It might be beneficial to imagine Jesus speaking to us in his native language.
Unlike Greek, Aramaic does not draw sharp lines between means and ends, or between an inner quality and an outer action. Both are always present. When Jesus refers to the “kingdom of heaven,” this kingdom is both within and among us. Likewise, “neighbor” is both inside and outside, as is the “self” that we are to love in the same degree as our “neighbor.” Unlike Greek, Aramaic presents a fluid and holistic view of the cosmos. The arbitrary borders found in Greek between “mind,” “body,” and “spirit” do not exist in Aramaic. Also, the Aramaic language is earthy. It is rich in images of planting and harvesting, celebrating the natural wonder of the cosmos. Aramaic presents the image of light and sound radiating through all creation. The Hebrew word for “blessed” is “BARUCH”. According to the Hebrew mindset, whenever we refer to God [Baruch Hashem – blessed be he], we fall on our knees before him out of reverence for his majesty. Because God is the author and sustainer of life, we are always in a relationship with him whether we are rich or poor, happy, or sad, exalted or brought low, and especially when we are persecuted. Because we have been drawn into the communion of the Trinity and are bound together with the chords of divine love, blessing accompanies us all along our journey. To bless and to be blessed are fundamental facets of our relationship with God and with one another. Blessings, whether given or received, help us recognize that God is in our lives and they draw us closer to Him and to the people He loves.
Our father St. Bernard penned this beautiful reflection for All Saints’ Day. “The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. If we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.” Because we are weak human beings, struggling to find our way, we need a Word to accompany us, to comfort and encourage us. We need to ponder God’s Word just like we need the air we breathe. In our time of need, God is showing us his favor by drawing us into his unity and communion of love. He is our comfort in sorrow, our food and drink in times of need, and our shield against all who would attack us. Regardless of what we have to endure, God is with us and carries us close to his heart.
In truth, the blessed one par excellence is Jesus Christ. He is, in fact, the poor one, the afflicted one, the meek one, the one hungering and thirsting for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, and the peacemaker. By being nailed to the cross, He became a curse so that we might receive a blessing. He is in our midst to heal all our ills. He touches the untouchables, embraces the rejected, raises the dead, and gives sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. He tells everyone willing to listen that they are favored by God’s eternal embrace, God’s abundant blessings. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us so that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1 John 3:1). We are truly blessed and have reason to rejoice and be glad.
May God go before you to lead you, May God go behind you to protect you, God go beneath you to support you, God go beside you to befriend you. Do not be afraid. May the blessing of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be upon you. Do not be afraid. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen. (Neal Plantinga)