Sunday’s readings taught us the importance of being merciful as the Lord has been merciful to us. Mercy, however, extends beyond what we can do for one another in this life; it extends beyond this world. Therefore, to use an example from Sunday’s Gospel, although the Lord is certainly pleased to be welcomed in the house of Zacchaeus for a few hours, and to see his mercy for the poor, he is even more eager to welcome Zacchaeus together with the poor into the house of the Father, where they can rejoice forever. This great goal, the lasting victory of mercy, is what we ponder today and tomorrow, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
Our joyful reflection begins with John’s triumphant vision of the saints in glory. He sees a great multitude from all corners of the world celebrating their share in the victory of Jesus, the Lamb of God who has washed away their sins. When we hear their song, our hearts are stirred with a desire to join them, worshipping God and singing together, “Amen! Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen!”
The Lord wants us all to join this assembly more than we do. He has created us for this very purpose, to share in his glory with the saints in Heaven. Through Baptism he has already brought us into a state of holiness and imprinted on our foreheads the seal which marks us as his own. Even though we have defiled the white garment of our dignity by the stain of sin, we are nevertheless still called to glory. The saints were sinners too. As we contemplate them today, we are reminded that every sinner is saved by Christ’s sacrificial death. Sainthood is possible for us all, if we cling to him in faith and survive “the time of great distress” by relying on his grace. We do not save ourselves: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb!”
Jesus too sees a great multitude. He sees us. We are not yet among the white-robed victors in Heaven. We are the hungry, searching souls still on pilgrimage in this world. “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.” When Jesus sees us struggling to follow him up the mountain, with great mercy he sits down and gives us a profound teaching on the way to Heaven. The Beatitudes are an instruction manual for saints. The saints – that is, everyone in Heaven, all our brothers and sisters who have arrived there ahead of us – are all “poor in spirit.” The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs; they are comforted; they see God; their hunger for him is fully satisfied.
The Beatitudes show us the radical difference between our natural way of seeing and God’s way. They express the very mind of Christ and the path that he himself followed. When we live by the Beatitudes, we become like him. The second reading tells us that we do not fully understand what it means to become like God. Still, our hope for this glorious future motivates us to persevere. “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.”
Those who do not look forward with hope to the heavenly wealth prepared for us who believe tend to try to enrich themselves with things of this world. “Poverty of spirit” makes no sense to them, for they see only this earthly life and no more. The saints who have gone before us and who are even now interceding for us remind us that immeasurable spiritual riches await those who put their trust in God. Anticipating the lasting joy of our future gives us true joy today. Even though we are still “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears,” we know that God has made us for glory, called us to holiness, and provided all we need to share in his Kingdom.
Why am I so enamored with the things of the world rather than the things of God? How do I ask the saints to help me? Pondering on the Beatitudes, what is the Lord teaching me?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 8. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.