on the news during this covid pandemic, there have been so many stories of people who have focused their efforts for the good of others. “first responders” is the name we give these selfless people who have sacrificed their own safety and well being to save the lives of others as well as keep us all fed and safe. some first responders have even caught the virus and died from it. these stories have inspired us and have shown us humanity at its best.
our society needs to see in people’s actions– care, compassion, justice, healing, and peace. in a word; love.
perhaps that is why when pope francis address the joint meeting of congress in 2015, he lifted up the examples of four americans; abraham lincoln, martin luther king jr, dorothy day and thomas merton. i fell out of my chair when pope francis gave prominence to these four inspiring people in that speech! just imagine if the u.s. congress passed laws in their spirit!
for christians, the Spirit invites us to love through the love shown in people’s lives. jesus said, “this is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
today is all saints day. at the most basic level, the saints are friends of jesus who love as jesus loved. self giving love is shown to us in many different ways as inspired by the Spirit. in our experiences of life, the beatitudes are a framework that shapes both our hearts and actions. they are a means of blessing for us.
in their lives, the saints exemplify the beatitudes, the main teaching of jesus from the sermon on the mount. we need to see the beatitudes in concrete actions. in the lives of the saints, the beatitudes come to life.
just think of your favorite saint for a moment. i am sure that there are stories from their life that showed a trust in God, heartache, forgiveness, gentleness, a hunger for justice, purity of heart, being a peacemaker, suffering from others. blessings flowed from these experiences into the life of your favorite saint and, by extension, into our lives too.
the Spirit works through the teachings of our church and the Spirit inspires us through the lives of the all star christians– the saints.
the clergy are important in the catholic faith. but we (yes– i am part of the clergy) are not the most important aspect of the community of faith. we get into trouble if this is our perspective because it stifles the Spirit that works through us all. at our best, the clergy are instruments of the Spirit through the sacraments and through our words. there are countless popes, bishops, deacons and priests who are saints. but the sinful humanity of the clergy can be seen publicly at times. these counter gospel examples can cause scandal and hurt in the world and is not God’s will. the sins of the clergy are not from the Spirit. unfortunately, these clerical sins have caused others to lose faith.
an essential counterbalance to the magisterium is the holy men and women– the saints. over the history of the church, the Spirit has raised up countless men and women who through the testimony of their acts and being have been inspiring examples of the faith. the saints lift up to build up greater faith and our common humanity. they remind us how to be like jesus and live in the Spirit. throughout history, the Spirit has brought various holy men and women forward to challenge the world and the magisterium back to the good, true and beautiful– back to God. at our best, religious men and women continue the spirit of their saintly founders.
also, the saints are in-the-flesh beatitudes.
in the worldly sense, the beatitudes (matthew 5: 1-12) can be seen as weakness. but through “weakness” the Spirit shows us spiritual strength. st paul voiced this paradox, “when i am weak, then i am strong.” in jesus’ words, the first shall be last; the last shall be first. the first beatitude– blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven– shows the hearts of all the saints. trusting ultimately in God, they had faith in the Lord’s presence and providential care/help/guidance.
the question for me today is, “do i desire to be a “saint?” not in the caricatured 18th century painting, heavenly gazing, hands folded sense but from a clearly visioned 2020 perspective.
thomas merton wrote in seeds of contemplation, “for me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.”
do i desire to find and discover who i really am as a daughter or son of God?
Lord, help me continue to re-discover who i really am so that i may love more authentically in my life. may the prayers of all the saints– especially mary– help me to trust your providential love and live out the beatitudes with the guidance of the Spirit. give us all your abundant blessings, Lord. may we share these graces with all we encounter this day. amen