Friday 1 November 2019: All Saints Day
What would Jesus do?
Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31 or Matthew 5:1-12
Context: an evening Mass in a socially mixed parish, preaching to a mainly adult congregation
Aim: drawing from the various divergent readings in the lectionaries, trying to communicate that we cannot rely on our own strength to become saints.
In the Bible belt of America, asking ‘What would Jesus do?’ is a popular way of trying to decide difficult questions. Some asked whether Jesus would vote Republican or Democrat. Some environmentally conscious Christians are asking what kind of car Jesus would have chosen! However, even to ask such questions stretches the imagination too far. Jesus never even saw a car. He knew nothing about mobile phones, I-pods or play stations either and there were no elections in first century Palestine.
He lived one life at one time. Like any other human, the Jesus who lived on earth had limited experience. He was a man and not a woman; a Jew and not a gentile. He was a first century man who probably never travelled very far, was not married, had no children, never experienced his fortieth birthday and never had the opportunity to grow old.
So, since he lived long ago and far away, with a very limited range of human experience--maybe his example not much use for showing how to live our lives today.
How to be happy
But Jesus is risen from the dead and we can see him in his Body, the Church. We see him in his saints. So, who are his saints and how did they get that way? We can get our answer by looking either at the list of what makes people blessed or happy as recorded either in Matthew’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’ or ‘Luke’s Sermon on the Plain.’
They are men and women who followed his teaching and became happy because they were not only ‘poor’ but, as Matthew tells us, ‘poor in spirit’ also. They knew God’s kingdom was gift rather than something God owed them because they were rich or important or because they were good.
They were gentle, and it was they, rather than pushy aggressive types, who inherited the Promised Land of heaven,
They mourned. They were sad, but for the right reasons—because of the unfairness in the world--and they were comforted by God, or as Luke tells us, they will laugh.
They were merciful and were rewarded by God’s mercy for them.
They were hungry and thirsty for justice, single minded about wanting to see God— ‘pure in heart’—and they were satisfied.
Their work for peace made them God’s children.
They were ready to put up with being bullied for what was right and to put up with all kinds of insults for being Christians. As a result, they are happy now with ‘a reward that is great in heaven.’
Varieties of Holiness
The saints lived in every place and in every time. Only a fraction of them named as saints by the Church, some people we have known —some of our own friends and family even. They spoke different languages; they were different colours, belonged to different cultures and had different temperaments. They all had on thing in common: they did not rely on their own strength to become saints. They became saints ‘because of the love the Father lavished upon them.’ They ‘washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb’ and now they see God as he really is.
And now they are our friends in heaven. They show us the face of the risen Jesus. They show us how he would want us to act in the important decisions in our lives. They inspire us by their example and help us by their prayers. In the Eucharist we celebrate the victory of Jesus over death and Jesus calls us to be like the saints. But like the saints, we cannot win with our own strength only by the lavish love of God and the blood of the Lamb.
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