Scripture Speaks: Solemnity of All Saints

It has been said that the saints are God’s most beautiful works of art in human flesh and blood.  Our readings today tell us why that is true.

Gospel (Read Mt 5:1-12a)

On the day when the Church calls us to remember the long, continuous line of saints who have lived in every age since Christ walked the earth, our Gospel points us to the beatitudes.  This makes all the sense in the world, because there is perhaps no clearer picture of what is exquisitely beautiful in human life in all of Scripture than what we find here.

Jesus wanted to teach His disciples that true happiness (or blessedness) in this world is found in the deep paradoxes of the Christian life.  Those who seem least likely to be happy (the poor in spirit, those who mourn, etc.) are, in fact, already living in the beatitude for which we were all designed and for which we all long.  Imagine how this teaching sounded in the ears of the ones who first heard it.  The description of the path to blessedness takes a journey from poverty of spirit into shocking persecution before it arrives at divine beatitude.  Had the world ever known such a recipe for the good life?  Jesus makes it so clear here that the life to which He calls us makes almost no sense to the worldly minded—His is truly a kingdom not of this world.  Of course, He was Himself the first one to show us that He knew what He was talking about.  Have there been others?

Yes!  The Church reminds us today that our history is full of people who said, “Amen!” to the beatitudes, fully opening their lives to the work Christ desired to do in and through them.  The saints are the flesh-and-blood examples that the paradoxes of the beatitudes actually do produce happiness in human lives.  The saints, through history, endured so many struggles, setbacks, persecutions, and humiliations, but, let us ask—were they miserable people?  No, the palpable joy of the saints recorded in our history and witnessed by our own eyes in this very age (St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II) confirms that Jesus was right to give us this proscription for happiness.  Their testimony gives us courage to likewise say, “Amen!” to the beatitudes as we hear them read today.

All you holy men and women, pray for us!

Possible response:  Father, thank You for giving us a communion with Your friends, the saints.  May we know their help as we seek to live the beatitudes.

First Reading (Read Rev. 7:2-4, 9-14)

In his apocalyptic vision of heaven, St. John gives us a scene that helps us see the future outcome of those who live their human lives according to the beatitudes.  It is a scene that describes the work of God in preserving His people through all the ages, both Jew and Gentile, as well as their active participation in their own destiny.  These are all the saints who, having embarked on that journey from poverty of spirit, traveling through the inevitable persecution that accompanies those who live otherworldly lives, arrive finally in white robes before the throne of God.  They, along with the angels, bask in Divine Beatitude and can do nothing else but sing, “Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen!”

In other words, the saints tell us that no matter what it costs us to follow the life of the beatitudes, it is worth it.

All you holy men and women, pray for us!

Possible response:  Father, help me keep this vision of heavenly glory always before me as I follow the path that leads to You, through this world and into the next.

Psalm (Read Ps 24:1bc-4ab, 5-6)

From the beginning, God designed man to seek His face, knowing that this is the end for which we were made, giving us true happiness.  The psalmist reminds us that those who long for communion with God must be like Him (“Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?  Or who may stand in His holy place?  One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain”).  This is the kind of life Jesus taught us in the beatitudes.  Through all our centuries of human history, the saints have been examples of how we can become “the race that seeks Him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.”  The path to the Divine is carved in flesh and blood.

All you holy men and women, pray for us!

Possible response:  The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings.  Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read 1 John 3:1-3)

In his epistle, St. John tells us that the work of art God does in flesh-and-blood has one source:  His immeasurable love for us.  He also confirms for us the obvious truth of the beatitudes:  when we live them, we will be misfits in this world, just as Jesus was.  Nevertheless, if we persevere, we will discover what we only barely perceive now:  “When it is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  The saints have always been people who, first and foremost, were taken up, captured and enraptured by God’s love.  We can see that they were those described by St. John here:  “Everyone who has this hope based on Him makes himself pure, as He is pure.”

All you holy men and women, pray for us!

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, Your promise that when we are faithful to Your calling, we will one day be like You is more than we would ever think to ask for.  Thank you for the saints, whose lives help us believe it.

Gayle Somers

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Gayle Somers is a member of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Phoenix and has been writing and leading parish Bible studies since 1996. She is the author of three bible studies, Galatians: A New Kind of Freedom Defended (Basilica Press), Genesis: God and His Creation and Genesis: God and His Family (Emmaus Road Publishing). Gayle and her husband Gary reside in Phoenix and have three grown children.

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