We sometimes wonder what the basic, essential, message of Easter is - what is its challenge? Perhaps the most challenging answer is - OUR FAITH MUST IGNITE AND EXPAND! Easter...
Who is your favourite saint? ….. Why? ….. Be very careful before you verbalise the motivation for your choice! Is it because he / she waves the proverbial magic wand over a few of your difficulties or is it because he / she challenges you to become a more faithful disciple of the Lord, and in what precise way?
Personally, I am not a ‘saints man’, and do not entertain any particular devotion to any of the canonised. I accept the Church’s official proclamation that some particular individual is now, definitely, living with the Lord – face to face. However, with Pope Francis I do not accept thateverything he / she said or did was in the realm of perfection and should be imitated and adhered to. Here I give as an example the patron saint of the diocesan clergy – Saint John Vianney. His culinary preferences, as far as I am concerned, were gross …. basically he lived on cold boiled potatoes kept in a barrel and eaten even when they were mouldy!?
However, on this great feast of
ALL SAINTS my favourites are my parents, a couple of the Marist Brothers who taught me, and some priests – all of whom led me to accept that God is love, that I must always accept myself, warts and all, and the goodness in me that will need to grow and develop until death. In short, all of these people taught me what our NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 JOHN 3: 1- 3] tells us – “see what love the Father has given us …. (we are) children of God now …. (then) we shall be like him.” However, I never create a fantasy world in which any of those mentioned are seen as faultless or infallible. They did, however, teach much of enormous value, especially never to give up on myself and always to hold fast to my profession of faith. In addition, I am certain that each of them, as this reading proclaims, is now “like him and see him as he is.” In other words they are saints and this Sunday is their feast day.
We have to be brutally honest about the saints!
THIS SUNDAY’S FIRST READING [REVELATION 7: 2 – 4] says it all very clearly. “I looked, and behold a great multitude which no man could number, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne … these are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Now, it is easy to establish the exact number of those officially canonised. However the actual number of the saints is impossible to count. Then, it was in life and living that they washed their robes white because (like those canonised) they needed washing (as well as tumble drying!) – at times more urgently than others – and the washing was done in the tribulations of life ….. the suffering, pain, sorrow, failure, disappointment, betrayal of trust, loneliness, despair and frustration.
TODAY’S PSALM [24 or 23] tells us, “such are the people who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob,” and it is these “who climb the mountain of the Lord.” Where they have gone I not only hope to follow but know I am able to do so ….. but must be both willing and prepared to shoulder and work through my own tribulations.
TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 5: 1 – 12a] sets out most of (if not all) the ways through which our tribulations come – either through our efforts in rehabilitating our failure to respond appropriately or because of the tribulation involved in successfully climbing the particular mountain. My own special saints teach me that blessings from the Lord are received from both my rehabilitations as well as the successful mountain climbing.