Revelation 7:2-4,9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; a Matthew 5:1-12a
When I was 6, my older 8year-old sister declared, “I don’t want to become a saint! I don’t want to be cut up when I die.” We had just watched the movie on St Teresa of Avila. And my mother was telling us that relics of St Teresa were sent to Carmelite monasteries around the world when the Church had declared her a saint. She explained that First Class Relics are parts of the saint’s body. It was to this that my sister retorted.
Today, we celebrate in our very limited temporal way the glory in eternity of the life that God shares with our fellow human confreres. It is the life that we too do not just hope for. We have a reason to rejoice as we are reminded that it is the life that God calls us all to – to share with Him in eternity as John hints in the Book of Revelation.
All the saints were not born in heaven. Like all of us, they were born on earth and so lived an earthly life in their time as we do today. Yes, saints are not made in heaven but on earth. But they managed to be exemplary in their life of relationship with God and with others. They lived their lives in a way that people could see the love of God in their midst.
In his First Letter, John reminds us to think of the love which God has lavished on us – a love that allows us to be called the sons and daughters of God and therefore may inherit a place in heaven with God. And that “everyone who has this hope based on Him makes himself pure, as He is pure.”
The Psalmist asks, “Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD or who may stand in his holy place?” “One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is useless.” If heaven is only for those who are pure and sinless, might it be well that we just give up now? Well, the Good News is that Jesus Christ came to cleanse us of our sins without lowering the standard. A clean heart and sinless hands and pure desires are still necessary, and the Lord will bring us up to the standard and even higher.
Being created in the image and likeness of God, we have a hint of how this is possible. And in the Gospel, Matthew tells of how Jesus shows us the way. Our earthly life is not an impediment but may well be the very vehicle to life eternal as we live according to Christ’s teachings- His words, and example.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus presents a sort of blueprint for Christian living. The Lord reversed the human expectations of those who were thought to be fortunate. And the “blessedness” that the Lord exhorts to is not some future glory; it is the blessedness that exists in the here and now.
With the Beatitudes, Jesus calls us to the life beyond the minimum way of following God in observing His commandments as presented in the old covenant. The saints are all proofs of how this is truly accessible or doable. It is possible for the human heart to revert, no matter how tarnished it may be, to purity as it was originally created and intended by God. In the midst of all the ramblings, the violence, the confusion, and the sin that the world can whip up, the human heart can find stillness, like the eye of a brewing hurricane, in faith and love of God that is expressed in the love and compassion towards one another. So that, no mourning, no hunger or thirst for righteousness, no persecution can shake out the love of God.
We honor the saints because they remind us of who we are and what we could be! They remind us of what Jesus can do with us, in us and through us! It is in him that we live – and hope to die with. We are pilgrims on our way home. The path is found in the beatitudes, and the end is found in heaven.
“Life is our journey from B to D and so reach E —that is, from Birth to Death to reach Eternity. What is between B and D is C—that is, the Choice on how to live it.” Let us choose to live according to the Beatitudes in our journey through life with Christ unto Eternity, into the embrace of God.
The glorious army of the Saints intercedes on our behalf before God, accompanies us on our way to the Kingdom and stimulates us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.