Happy All Saint’s Day
The opening credits of Mother Angelica’s Live Show featured her saying, “You’re all called to be great Saints.” The first few times I heard that, I thought, “Who? Me?”
But after a bit I realized she was serious. I am called to be a Great Saint, like Francis, or Theresa or Augustine, not just some shlub who spends eternity vacuuming the clouds in the lower levels of heaven (although that would be great duty in itself).
In reading today’s Gospel, I was inspired with some insights, and I want to share them with you. The Gospel is Matthew 5:1-12. It is the famous Beatitudes discourse. If anyone were to truly put these Attitudes into Being, they would undoubtably become a Great Saint.
1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The poor in spirit according to my Bible means everyone who realizes they are completely dependent on God for everything. No matter if you are rich, middle class or poor, you can only count on God for all your needs. Money has a way of disappearing, even if you invest and spend wisely. Look at how many 401k’s have all but vanished with the recent economic downturn. Jobs that provide for our living can disappear. Nothing in this life is certain except for God’s love. That is all anyone can really depend on. When you realize that, first you may be frightened and feel insecure, but then you must comprehend how much God loves you. Once you do that, fear is replaced with the feeling a child has when they are enfolded in their parent’s arm’s.
2) Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Everyone experiences sorrow. The loss of a loved one, whether they be a person or a pet, we all will grieve over a loss. Death causes the most profound mourning and it is death that is universally known among people. The separation we feel, the longing for the person to be in our lives still creates an emptiness that nothing on earth can fill. Yet Christ conquered Death so that it should no longer have its sting. Especially today, the Feast of All Saints, we should bear in mind that our separation from our loved ones is not necessarily forever. The Communion of Saints teaches us that our loved ones still are alive, that they still are involved in our lives, although for the moment we may not be able to put our arms around them. In time, if we but persevere, we can rejoin them in the next life prepared for us by God.
3) Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Life on earth is tough. Survival of the fittest is the rule. The meek usually become prey to the aggressive. Bullying, spouse abuse, child abuse. Predatory lending and loan sharks. Identity thieves and all kinds of scammers can end up with our possessions which we have worked so hard to earn. Jesus promises that such injustice will not stand. In the end, those who are Meek will possess a territory, a treasure, that is truly the Pearl of Great Price, the Plot of Land worth more than all we can ever have. God is in control, Be certain of that. There will be a reckoning and all those who profited wrongly will be required to pay the full price. It is interesting that in Dante’s Inferno, those guilty of Usury, that is the Loan Sharks and High Interest Bankers, occupy a lower level of Hell than the Murderers.
4) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
If you have been unfortunate enough to be a victim of any kind, you know the deep desire for retribution and justice. In today’s world, often the victims are victimized again by the workings of an imperfect justice system. Criminals go free, indeed they even prosper, for a while. But again, death comes to all and Jesus is the Perfect Judge. There will be no plea bargain, no gaming the system. And whatever the verdict, if we are truly Jesus’s brother, we will desire only what he decides is justice.
5) Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Every time we pray the Our Father we say, Forgive us Our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. None of us are without sin. We have all screwed up at one time AND another. When we err, we are quick to forgive ourselves our mistakes. We must be just as quick to forgive others when their mistakes hurt us. While we still hurt, while we still are angry, we must forgive. It has nothing to do with what we feel like doing rather, it is a command from God, Forgive Seventy times Seven, in other words forgive infinitely, if you wish God to forgive you.
6)Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
The Psalm asks, Who can ascend the mountain of God, who can stand in God’s presence? Only the one who is clean of heart ! There can be no duplicity in us, no desire for using others for our gain. Indeed, we must be Third. I heard this statement on EWTN. A peasant woman who operated a small stand had a sign that read, “I’m third !” When asked about it, she explained. “In all dealings, God is First, Everyone else comes next, then I am last.” Profound when you tie it to Jesus’ admonition that whoever wishes to be first must be the servant of all. This is not a request, but a command.
7) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Che, Osama, Ghadaffi, …. the list is truly long. They are history’s butcher’s, men responsible for millions of deaths. I’m not doing to bad if I decide to compare myself to this list of notables. Really? Pause a moment, imagine your family lived under one of these tyrants, each day filled with uncertainty and fear. Now imagine you spend your day verbally, emotionally and maybe physically abusing your family. Who are your family more afraid of, one of the great despots of the world or little unknown you?
Peace has to start in our hearts and then proceed next to our immediate family and friends. You either add to the immediate peace or detract from it. There is no neutral point. Where do you stand?
8) Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The martyrs in ancient Rome suffered heavy persecution, bloody, terrible tortures we don’t need to dwell on right now. Such are the images that come to mind with the word persecution, and it continues in parts of the world today. But in the USA, where I live, such persecutions are thankfully unknown. But others, almost as bad, do exist. It is considered chic and cool to make fun of person who strives to live a Holy, even a pious life. Christians, especially Catholics, are considered fair game for all sorts of slurs and put downs. Our religious symbols are immersed in urine, our beliefs are twisted and skewed and made the brunt of jokes on popular shows. All of this by persons who usually only have a cursory understanding of what they are mocking. But the mocking does not stop at the Faith, but continues on to the individual who tries their best to practice their faith. It has reached the point that now the government wants to outlaw or make illegal how individuals and religious organizations live out their faith in the public sphere.
The reason for this was explained nearly 100 years ago by an English journalist, G.K. Chesterton who said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
We are now living in the time that Christ predicted, where truth is exchanged for a lie. And some now demand that all acknowledge Their Truth and even justify and reward them for their choice. The level of persecution has intensified since the 1960’s. The culture war shows signs of going hot. All who wish to call themselves Christian must read and re-read the Beatitudes and strive to conform their lives to them now more than ever, for they seem to be prescient about the times we live in.
God Bless One and All
Dennis P. McGeehan