31 Oct


(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity OF ALL SAINTS – Sunday, 1 November 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:1-12

First Reading: Revelation 7:2-4,9-14; Psalms: Psalm 24:1-6; Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-3

The Scripture Text

Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12 RSV)

Since the Jews in Jesus’ day considered the laws in Scripture and in the oral traditions (the 613 man-made Jewish laws) guidelines to holiness, anyone who wanted to be holy had to follow all these laws. The problem was that the rich had time to study the laws and learn what they meant, but the average person could not do this because he was too busy working long hours just to provide the basic necessities for his family. Therefore, only the rich could be holy. Some Jews considered the way God blessed the rich with wealth and happiness proof that He favored them because of their observance of the laws. This favored status supposedly guaranteed them a place of honor in the Kingdom of God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus surprises a lot of people by saying the rich do not have a monopoly on holiness and therefore are not necessarily guaranteed the choicest spots in the Kingdom. Holiness, according to Jesus, is within the reach of even the poor and the powerless.

Jesus promises the reign of God to the poor in spirit and “the land” (a popular way of referring to the Kingdom of God) to the lowly. The persecuted, Jesus says, will receive a great reward and peacemakers will be known as God’s sons, a title the Jews used to describe the righteous who would occupy places of honor in the Kingdom of God. The people who Jesus said were holy and prominent in the kingdom were the poor and the weak, the same people who were considered sinners because they did not follow all the laws.

Sometimes we fall into the same trap the Jews in Jesus’ day fell into and think holiness is just for a certain few like priests, ministers, and those who are “professionally religious”. We are afraid to picture ourselves as holy because we do not understand what holiness really is.

Everyone who has a relationship with God is holy and as that relationship becomes stronger, the person becomes holier. Therefore, holiness is like a spiritual yardstick, measuring one’s relationship with God. This means that you, me, the person sitting next to us in the church, the neighbor who worships at the church down the street, and even the obnoxious kid who is always getting on your nerves may be holy. As Christians, we should all be working on developing a closer relationship with our God and, therefore, should be growing in holiness each day of our lives.

If saints are holy and if you are holy because you have a relationship with God, then you must be a saint. Therefore, rejoice because today the Church celebrates your feast day too!

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 362-363.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, the saints in heaven behold Your glory and know the rewards of Your life. Fill me with hope in Your promise of eternal life. May we all share the joy of Your saints in heaven. Amen.

Jakarta, 31 October 2020

A Christian Pilgrim


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