All Saints

saintsMountains are majestic. They awe us. They inspire us. They draw us. Mountains are ever changing in our beholding—sunrise and sunset bathe them in different lights and colors; winter and summer clothe them in different array; storms and wind wrap them in tremor. No wonder in biblical imagery mountaintops are places of theophany—places where God reveals the divine Self to human beings. The sublime majesty of mountains draws us to the ineffable majesty of the God who creates, who blesses, who draws to Self those who are drawn to seek the One who is good beyond all measure, is holy beyond all reckoning, is caring beyond all imagining.

It is no accident that the Gospel of Matthew has Jesus go “up the mountain,” traditionally a place associated with divine encounter, to teach the Beatitudes to his disciples. The Beatitudes reveal the very Being of God (“Blessed,” holy), God’s care for God’s beloved people (“poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” etc.), God’s intent for faithful ones (“theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). The Beatitudes reveal the mind and heart of God. Those who have encountered God and lived the Beatitudes have the same mind and heart. We call them “saints.” There is a countless multitude of saints in heaven, “wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (first reading), endlessly singing God’s praises. There is a countless multitude of saints here among us who “are God’s children now” (second reading) who have embraced the beatific, Godlike way of living. While this feast day primarily honors the saints who have gone before us, we cannot forget ourselves on this day. They have gone where we hope to go.

There are many ways to be blessed. One of the attractions of honoring saints is that they offer a great deal of variety and richness of life for us to emulate. The saints we honor this day are not “up there,” but “in here”—in our minds and hearts. They model for us how to live the Gospel faithfully in concrete, everyday ways. They preached the Gospel in word and action: they cared for their families, they served the least among us, they forgave enemies, they sought justice and peace, they showed mercy, they suffered persecution all for the sake of Jesus. The saints witness for us heroic virtue,unwavering fidelity, simplicity of life, great humility, and outstanding charity. We must also witness to this saintly way of living for others.

No matter what situation in life we find ourselves or what difficulty we face, some Saint offers us a model for perseverance in our blessedness and the assurance of care. This solemnity reminds us that our life of blessedness rests on an intimate relationship with God and each other expressed through enduring bonds of mutual care, mercy, humility, and self-giving. This festival is one of encouragement—God doesn’t judge us only on our weaknesses but on our persevering in a willingness to live as God’s blessed children. The simple, everyday things we do well wash us in the blood of the Lamb (see first reading). Our smile is a saintly one. Our gesture of kindness is an expression of blessedness. Our humility is Godlike. Others’ holy gestures toward us are reminders that there is glory awaiting us. To each of us who embraces our blessedness: ours “is the kingdom of heaven.”