Embodying the Beatitudes

– Solemnity of All Saints –

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … (Matthew 5:1-3)

Today’s gospel reading is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, what we commonly call the Beatitudes.

Jesus paints a picture of what the kingdom of heaven is like. In God’s world, the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger for justice, the merciful, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted are all blessed.

The Beatitudes could be seen as little more than sweet platitudes, but embracing them in our lives is anything but sweetness and light.

We remember the great multitude of the saints on this day. Across the centuries, the saints – canonised or not – have strived to embody the Beatitudes within the Church, a community which, at its best, has sought to enable the love of God to break into the brokenness of the world. The lives of many of the saints are testimony to how difficult that can be.

When we show mercy or try to cultivate peace or seek justice, we are projecting a momentary glimpse of the blessed heavenly future into our place and time now.

This blessing is offered to everyone because God’s love has no bounds. What an awesome vision of the future! And what a challenging task it is for us to offer glimpses of this vision to everyone – saints and sinners alike, wealthy and poor, popular and despised, whatever gender, sexual orientation, colour, ethnicity or religion.

We can’t do this by separating ourselves from the rest of the world.  We can only share this vision by getting “bruised, hurting and dirty” on the streets, as Pope Francis puts it, immersing ourselves in the often unpleasant reality of human life.

We are all invited to live this way in our personal lives, but I think it’s even more important for us to ask how we, in our parishes and schools, offer this beautiful vision to people in our local community.  I promise you – if we try to answer that challenge, it will result in a radical re-shaping of what we do. Remember, when many of the canonised saints were captivated by this blessed vision of God’s future, it changed the course of their lives dramatically. Why should it be any different for us today?!

by Peter Arndt

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