The key to a realistic understanding of both THIS SUNDAYS OLD [ECCLESIASTES 1: 2. 2: 21 - 23] and NEW TESTAMENT [COLOSSIANS 3: 1 - 5. 9 - 11] READINGS...
This is the NINTH reflection I have prepared for the Solemnity of All Saints! For the last few years I must admit that each time the celebration has come around, I have said to myself ‘Oh dear! What on earth am I able to say this time?’ Then the lesson I have learnt so often is repeated …. every time you read a piece of scripture something new jumps out and you wonder how on earth you had never noticed that particular aspect or point?
The first point offered to you long-suffering folk who follow these reflections is this – we must STOP trying to EARN salvation. Why do I say this? Well, OUR FIRST READING [REVELATION 7: 2 – 4. 9 — 14] makes a very basic point when it tells us that “salvation belongs to our God.” It is freely given, not merited or deserved. This fact is the beginning of an understanding of our Christian God’s LOVE FOR EACH ONE OF US!
Christianity is the only faith based on God’s fatherly love, his understanding of our limitations, faults and failings. This is why OUR SECOND READING [1 JOHN 3: 1 – 3] proclaims “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God.” The common prayer of all Christians, taught by Jesus himself, begins: OUR FATHER… Why is it that this basic tenet of our faith is not far more positively averted to and acted upon? We appear to have complicated matters an enormous amount?
We are, each one of us, already a part of the Communion of Saints. Saint John tells us in his readingthat “we are God’s children now.” This much has already been achieved. Children should not hide from their parents …. unless they are playing a game! Yet John goes on to challenge us for the future when he states that “it does not yet appear what we shall be.” So we are faced with two important words: (i) NOW, and (ii) YET. Too often we become obsessed with the yet and start trying to earn the future. In taking this impoverished approach we forget that the now has to be lived and not turned into some sort of spiritual calculator on which the plus and minus icons are in constant use!
The vast majority of parents (like parish priests with parishioners!) see their children realistically in the now as they are. However, parents also have hopes for the yet …. for what the children WILL BE!? Our Christian God is no different. Each one of us has a now and we also have a yet! This is what our Christian God sees in each of us. This is one of the reasons why I see this God of ours as a PARENT, our Father-Mother God!
Each and every child is very different both in personality and character. So are the saints. So are we. Our God is fully aware of this. This is why the reading from Revelation is able to speak of “a great multitude no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples, and tongues.” Are all the named saints precise clones, identical in every respect? Are they all the same? If so, why do different people have favourite saints, individuals who appeal more than others? Take a look at THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MATTHEW 5: 1 – 12a] which proclaims the eight beatitudes. Did each and every named saint excel in each and every beatitude? Surely not? They were all human, and even named saints had faults and limitations. This fact is often forgotten and overlooked. However, in the now they were reaching out in a most courageous manner to the yet!
Pope Francis has, recently, compared the Church to an orchestra where each member has to play the particular instrument which they are good at, while blending in with all the other players. The Pope emphasised unity in diversity. Each Beatitude is different but together makes up perfection.
In some strange but very real way the living of the beatitudes is, as described in our extract from REVELATION, the “great tribulation” from which all the saints “have come out of.” This is what we have to come out of.
It is this coming out of which is the Gospel method of our seeking him …. seek the face of God as presented by TODAY’S PSALM [ 24 or 23]. However, do not overlook another factor emphasised by this Psalm which speaks about the “right reward from the God who saves.” Here we are faced with a reminder that “salvation belongs to our God.” Our Father-Mother God, through the action of the Holy Spirit, works in us constantly, fine-tuning our own particular instrument and encouraging us to carry on playing what we play best while playing in the orchestra of different instruments.
The God to whom salvation belongs, the one who does the saving,
is the conductor of the orchestra which is the Communion of Saints – in the now and in the yet!