Vol.5 No.8 DoM Gospel Reflection
Solemnity of All Saints—Matthew Ch.5:1-12
By Lindsay Nagy
This Sunday we will celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. As a church we will honor the faithful servants that have reached heaven and enjoy eternal communion with our loving creator. These holy souls have lived out their vocations in their natural life by rejecting the worldly definitions of happiness and have instead committed themselves to following the teachings of Jesus and modeling his example. This day of celebration reminds us of the reality of our own salvation, and gives us joyful hope that one day we too will find our souls resting in the loving arms of our savior. We celebrate those who have not allowed their humanity to define their lives. We celebrate their courage to act on the love placed in their hearts by God. We celebrate our good fortune that this too is our destiny, because through the grace of the sacraments we have invited Jesus into our hearts to perfect them and to make them holy.
As a perfect complement to this celebration of All Saints, this Sunday’s gospel reading comes from Matthew and it is Jesus’s teaching of the Beatitudes. This sermon lists nine bits of wisdom involving the interior virtues that Jesus proclaims will make one’s life blessed. This word, blessed, comes from the Greek word “makarios” which translates to happy or blissful. However, used in the Christian sense, the word blessed has come to describe a much deeper sense of spiritual joy that comes not from things of this world, but from things of the next. Part of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, as well as the Sermon on the Plain in Luke, we hear for the first time in Matthew’s gospel what Jesus, the preacher, is all about. When Matthew Ch. 5 begins, Jesus has chosen his disciples and has been traveling throughout Galilee healing, teaching, casting out demons, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. He has also been echoing John the Baptist’s call for repentance and proclaiming that the” kingdom of heaven has come near”. He must have made a profound impact on each city he passed through, because by the time we get to this mountainside location somewhere beyond Jordan, it is evident by the “great crowds” that Matthew describes, that Jesus has been traveling for quite some time and amassed quite a following. We are told that Jesus stops the journey and assesses the crowds that have been following him. He then decides to ascend the mountain and sits down. After he is seated the disciples gather around him to listen to what he is about to say. He begins by saying, “Blessed are…”. These include the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, the ones who are persecuted for righteousness sake, and the ones who are persecuted for following him. To conclude this teaching he tells them to “rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven”.
Before we begin to reflect on what Jesus is saying, it is important to remember who he is preaching too. Because Matthew was written to evangelize the Jewish people, Matthew is constantly referring back to the Torah to show them that Jesus is the fulfillment of the ancient scriptures. Matthew uses these parallels to the Torah to enhance his position that Jesus has come to fulfill and not to abolish the old laws. The law of Moses was the established moral law of these faithful people. Matthew wants the reader to know that Jesus didn’t come to alter any of these commandments, but he did want to show them a radical new way of living them. This way of mixing the old with the new is the hallmark of Matthew’s gospel and is important when we consider the message of Matthew’s Jesus. Matthew wanted the reader to see Jesus as the new Moses, revealing the new law of the heart. Jesus is inviting his disciples here into a deeper spiritual walk with him. Jesus is revealing the true nature of our creator. He is teaching them that the old laws are still good but it is the spirit of the law, not the ethical side of the law, that is of greater importance. Morality is good and will lead to holiness. But Jesus wants the Jews in this gospel to realize that true virtue comes from the heart. He wants them to lead moral lives not for themselves but out of love for everyone else. Many of the Jews of Jesus day were blind to the idea that God’s favor came from an interior disposition. They didn’t realize they were worshipping the rules themselves. They believed that strict adherence to moral laws, religious rituals, and dietary disciplines is what made them holy. Jesus begins his teaching in Matthew by inviting the disciples to look at their morality in an entirely different way. He is showing them a new path to holiness. He is inviting them to let him change their hearts. This radical new message of salvation through love and humble service to all was to become the foundation of Jesus’s ministry and the pillar for the Christian life in his Christian Church.
We can see from Matthew’s gospel the message Jesus had for the Jews. But what significance does Matthew’s Beatitudes have for the DOM? This wisdom Jesus shares with us is counter intuitive to our human nature. What He is telling us is the opposite of what the world tells us will make us happy or blessed. The world tries to fool us into thinking that power, success, wealth, and physical beauty will make us happy. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will know that true happiness comes only from Love. The source of this Love comes only from our creator. So once we confess this, our only earthly goal becomes, how do we ensure that we are never separated from this Love which will make us happy for eternity? The Beatitudes answers this question for us. We listen to what Jesus is telling us here and we say “yes”. Just like the Blessed Virgin said yes—and just like all of the Saints that have gone before us said yes to their call to holiness. Through our baptism we have become his children, part of his family. What does a family do? A family loves each other. Even when we feel under appreciated or wronged, even when we can’t see eye to eye, even when a situation seems impossible… we go on loving. We live the Beatitudes every time we strive to be the peacemaker, every time we show mercy, every time we humble ourselves, every time we comfort someone, every time we give to someone in need… we are doing his holy work. Jesus is calling all of us to holiness in every interaction we have with each other. He is calling us “to be perfect as our father is perfect”.(Mt 5:48) But Jesus knows that we cannot accomplish any of this on our own. That is why he instituted his church and the holy sacraments for us to cling to and for fellowship with his sons and daughters. His grace to accomplish this work is waiting for us. Jesus promises us “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Mt 21:22). Jesus is constantly inviting our spirit to be part of his heavenly kingdom. Every time we participate in the sacraments or hand him our hearts in prayer we allow ourselves to be channels of his grace. Every minute of every day we invite him into our hearts to do the divine work of the beatitudes. That is how we say yes. That is how we become saints. That is the roll we play in his holy church. We allow him into our hearts and let him get to work. We don’t do this for ourselves. We do this out of love for him because we know that he loves us and he knows what is best for us. We do this for the love of our family.
So can we rejoice and be glad? Is our reward great in heaven? Absolutely!! We are ALL on our way!! Jesus’s abundant love has secured all of our places in heaven. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “For in hope we are saved”. And in the second reading for Sunday, in the first letter of John, the last line reads “Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.” Our hope in Jesus through our trials is our salvation. Our steadfast reliance and obedience to him is our salvation. Our trust is in him, who has loved us before we were born, and who will bring us home one day to live in love with him forever. Amen