Reflection on the Solemnity of All Saints
Revelation 7:2 ff. 1 John 3:1 ff. Matthew 5:1 ff.
Happy All Saints Day!
We have a set of readings today that tell us how one gets to be a saint. Each scriptural passage seems to say, do this and you will succeed, do this and you will win the prize, do this and you will have your reward, you will get to heaven. You will finally be a saint.
The Book of Revelations speaks of those who have survived the great distress, have been washed in blood, and are now dressed in white robes. St. John urges that we make ourselves pure as God is pure, then we, who are already children of God, will become something even more. And in the Gospel, the familiar Beatitudes passage seems to read like a litany of promises: do this now and later you will be …, do this now and later you will become …, do this now and your reward will be great in heaven.
This year, 19 of our Loretto sisters and co-members have died and, following the rites of the Church, we have rejoiced 19 times that each has won through to her reward. Nineteen life stories, many of which I have written, have shown us the remarkable and unique paths that lead to sainthood. Writing those stories and listening to all your sharing about these dear souls — at wakes and around the dinner tables — I’ve come to believe that each one was a saint in her lifetime, saints and blessed ones while they walked among us.
Looking at the Beatitudes from this perspective, I can imagine Jesus saying: you there, Mary Fran, you have been blessed with the ability to spread peace around you, and this blessing is what makes you as trusting as a child. I tell you, Jossey, that as much as you yearn to set injustice right, that is how much meaning and satisfaction you will have in your life. And to you, Pearl, I say, you have been gifted with a merciful and forgiving heart, because of which you are able to trust the mercy offered to you. Maureen, you are blessed as one of the poor in spirit, and that’s why every least creature is a precious treasure in your eyes.
These are my imaginings; I know I can’t see God’s blessings and their consequences so clearly. But let me challenge myself and you to an exercise in openness and self-discovery: Recall that the goodness that is special to you is truly a God-given blessing, and imagine that it has a two-way effect: Your special goodness makes you a blessing to others AND ALSO your special goodness blesses you yourself — maybe it gives you an appreciation of nature, or an openness to grace, or a comforting insight about life. I‘m going to be quiet for a minute and let you relax and explore your particular blessedness, with its consequences for you and others.
I hope this exercise has blessed you with a deep sense of gratitude. Now, consider the person next to you or across the aisle. I’m going to be silent again for a minute while you open your eyes and heart to the blessedness of that person near you, cherish the giftedness you notice, and marvel at the way that gift blesses both the person and others.
Perhaps you will want to repeat these exercises in the days to come. For now, let’s just look around and marvel: Blessed are we, saints of God. Blessed are we, that we live in the company of saints. Praised be our God who blesses creation with such abundant goodness.