The Solemnity of All Saints
By: Emma Graham
Blessed are they. These are the words Christ uses throughout our gospel reading today, to reveal to us an image of sainthood.
We hear that Jesus sits atop a mountain and gathered around him are not only his disciples, but also crowds of people, all hoping to find some meaning, and promise in his words. Today, this scene looks much different as we crowd around the word of God through computers and wires, however nonetheless we gather and just like those brothers and sisters in the first century we are searching for a promise in Christ’s words too.
Looking back on my highschool Catholic religious education, this passage was taught in comparison to the 10 Commandments, as a new set of commandments. It was explained that this new set reversed the 10 Commandments, changing a list of “you shall not” into a list of “you shall.” In essence replacing, “you shall not kill,” with “you shall be a peacemaker.” While this observation is a good starting point, it misses the bigger picture of this passage.
Far from a laundry list of “to-do’s”, these Beatitudes which open Christ’s Sermon on the Mount operate as a loving invitation to holiness, to become like God. These eight invitations into poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger for righteousness, mercifulness, purity of heart, peacemaking, and perseverance in persecution are descriptors of God himself in the person of Jesus.
This list is not possible to complete on one’s own, as it requires at every moment a gift of the self to the other for God. So this invitation to holiness is then an invitation into relationship and reliance on God’s grace to transform us into mini-Christ’s.
To be transformed, we allow the spirit to work in us, inviting us deeper into ourselves to reveal the image of God within.
St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church and mystic, explores this idea in The Interior Castle saying “it is foolish to think we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.” The entire project of her book is an exploration of ever deepening awareness of the presence of God within ourselves, and our utter reliance on him.
So then friends, what does it mean for us to take up Christ’s invitation to holiness?
We must commit to doing the challenging work of recognizing our poverty, resting in our sorrow, accepting our weakness, and hungering for righteousness.
We must also let this transformation radiate outwards so that we encounter the other from a disposition of mercy, purity of intention, peace, and docility.
This seems an impossible task, and when we live it today, it can sometimes seem a thankless one. However, for each of these ways that we give ourselves to God and to others, Christ promises an even greater gift to us.
Each time we accept our meekness, we inherit the earth, and each time we are persecuted for righteousness sake, we are guaranteed the Kingdom of heaven. What greater gift could we ask for?!
Today, November 1st we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, and we turn our eyes to those holy men and women who have taken up Christ’s invitation.
However, we must remember that these holy people are not far removed from us, but were once just like us, struggling to respond to Christ’s invitation, living in the hope of his promises.
They are truly the “blessed” because they allowed themselves to be transformed, and are now rejoicing having received the kingdom of heaven, the comfort, the satisfaction, the mercy, and an eternal encounter with the living God.
Though we may be muddling through this world, we have the opportunity to take up this incredible invitation to become truly ourselves, holy and reliant on God.
To finish, I’ll leave you with the encouraging words of newly beatified, Bl. Carlo Acutis, “Do not be afraid because with the Incarnation of Jesus, death becomes life, and there’s no need to escape: in eternal life, something extraordinary awaits us.”