Being the Beatitudes, All Saints Day, November 1, 2002

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
All Saints Day
November 1, 2002
Rev 7:2-4,9-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12

• This is a feast about the whole point of human life. We’re made for heaven, to spend eternity with God in a kingdom of love. Jesus came down from heaven to show us the way to heaven. Today we celebrate those people who followed Jesus all the way, the great and famous saints we know about, the countless quiet saints, probably many of those who passed on to us the faith, who died in the love of the Lord and now live in the love of the Lord.

• While heaven is always and exclusively a gift of God beyond anything we can merit, God has set it up as a result of our choice. He won’t force us there. He gives us a choice. In fact, he gives us many choices, in each of which we determine our fate. A choice between true, lasting happiness and momentary pleasure. A choice between light and darkness. A choice between good and evil. A choice between life and death. Jesus came down to show us the way to choose well, but there are competing voices that tell us to choose against what God wants. The saints have chosen well. We’re called to do the same.

• In today’s Gospel, Jesus gathers us around him and presents to us the way to heaven, the way to happiness, the way to peace. And he calls us to trust in Him, even when what he says sounds strange, even when it pulls us away from a seemingly attractive alternative. Let’s listen to him again about happiness, about the way to heaven, about the way to holiness.

Whereas the world say you have to be rich to be happy, Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will inherit the kingdom of heaven.”
Whereas the world says, you’re happy when you don’t have a concern in the world, Jesus says “Blessed are those” who are so concerned with others that “they mourn” over the others’ miseries, “for they will be comforted” by him eternally.
Whereas the world says, “You have to be strong and powerful to be happy,” Jesus says blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Whereas the world says, “To be happy, you’ve got to be a sex god’” that “Happy is the one who scores with as many men and women as possible, Happy are men like Hugh Hefner or Hollywood vixens,” Jesus says “Happy are the pure of heart for they shall see God.”
Whereas the world says, “You’re happy when you accept yourself,” Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness, for his grace and justification, for they will be filled.”
Whereas the world says, “You’re happy when you don’t start a fight, but finish it” and people from professional wrestlers, to boxers, to generals, to armchair presidents shout “No mercy,” Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Whereas the world says, “You’re happy when everyone considers you nice,” Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” and “blessed are you when people revile you, persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account,” “for their reward will be the kingdom of heaven.

• “Blessed are you!”, he says, “all you who are poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, you who mourn, who care for what is right, who are pure in heart, who make peace, you who are persecuted! Blessed are you!” The words of Jesus may seem very strange to us. It is strange that Jesus exalts those whom the world generally regards as weak. He says to them, “Blessed are you who seem to be losers, because you are the true winners: the kingdom of heaven is yours!” Spoken by him who is “gentle and humble in heart” (Mt 11:29), these words present a challenge which demands a deep and abiding conversion of the spirit, a great change of heart, in all of us, because we don’t live that way.

• Jesus’ call has always demanded a choice between the two voices competing for your hearts even now, the choice between good and evil, between life and death. Which voice will you choose to follow? To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.

• In the end, Jesus does not merely speak the Beatitudes. He lives the Beatitudes. He is the Beatitudes. Looking at him you will see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say, “Come, follow me!” He does not say simply, “Do what I say”. He says, “Come, follow me!”

• We’re called, too, not just to hear the beatitudes, not just to live the beatitudes, but to be the beatitudes. The beatitudes describe both the face of Christ and the face of a Christian, the face of one striving with God’s help to become a saint. The Pope calls it the Magna Carta of Christianity and says that the way of the Beatitudes is the way to happiness, holiness and heaven. They are an uphill path, but one in which we trustingly follow Jesus all the way. And Christ expects us to become people of the beatitudes.

• “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness.” Through this Eucharist, through this great feast day, may the Lord help us have that hunger, have that thirst, have that desire for holiness, for living the beatitudes, so that one day we will indeed be satisfied forever.