First Reading: Rev 7:2-4. 9-14; Psalm: 24. R. v. 6a; Second Reading: 1Jn 3:1-3; Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a
THE BEATITUDES: THE ATTITUDES OF THE SAINTS
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Today, the Church celebrates the solemnity of all saints. But why is today called all saints day? It is simply because the church sets aside today to remember all the saints, both the ones formally recognised and the ones not formally recognised by the church. So in this sense, no saint is actually left out. In the first reading of today, we hear St John talking about his vision of a great multitude impossible count, from every nation, tribes, peoples and tongues standing before the throne of the Lamb praising God. This countless multitudes are the saints in heaven and this is why we seek their intercession because of their closeness to God.
It is worthy to note that we do not worship the saints when we pray to them but only seek their intercession. Reverence offered to the saints is called “Dulia”. Reverence and honour offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary is called “Hyperdulia”. And worship offered to God is called “Latria”. So the solemnity we celebrate today offers Dulia to the saints and also reminds us of where we are called to be and what we are called to become. But how exactly can we become saints?
In the gospel of today, Jesus sat on the mountain and facing the crowd taught them what is called the Beatitudes. These beatitudes are the attitudes of the saints which we have to imbibe and practice daily so as to become saints of God. If our attitudes do not conform to these beatitudes, then we far from becoming saints.
This is the beatitude and the attitudes of the saints:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted
- Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
- Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on God’s account, rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.
To be poor in spirit means to be humble before God; to depend solely on God and to realise that all our gifts and possessions are a gift from God. Understanding this will predispose us to serve others with all we’ve got just like St Vincent the Paul and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
To mourn means to be heartbroken and compassionate due to the suffering of others. It also requires that we sincerely feel remorseful when we sin against God. This remorsefulness and the resolve not to sin again is a prerequisite to God’s mercy and forgiveness. David exemplifies this quality in the bible. Little wonder he was called the man after God’s own heart.
To be meek means to have a spirit of gentleness and self control. The meek are not violent, vengeful or willing to exploit others. St Maria Gorreti at age 11 was gentle and able to tame her sensual desires when Alessandro made advances on her. She resisted and was ferociously stabbed fourteen times by Alessandro. Her righteousness and perseverance won her the crown of the sainthood.
To hunger and thirst for what is right means our drive and passion to know God and to do his will. It was this drive that propelled St Augustine into the search for fulfilment in life. The search that end when he eventually found God the love of his life.
To be merciful requires that we show mercy and forgiveness to those who may have wronged us either knowingly or unknowingly. St Pope John Paul II, on the 13th of May 1982 was shot four times at St Peter’s square by Mehmet Ali Agca. Ali was convicted of attempted murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Italian court. When the Pope miraculously recovered from the bullet wounds, he visited Ali in prison and begged for his pardon. Ali would later be released and deported to Turkey. The Pope dropped the bullets extracted from his body at the foot of the grotto of our Lady. Today, we celebrate him as one of the saints.
To be pure in heart is to have a heart of love and mercy. A heart that is pure harbours no hatred, impurity or jealousy towards others. Jesus said of Nathaniel “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” (Jn 1:47).
To be a peacemaker requires that we seek for peace always. It requires that we always and everywhere be disposed to seek reconciliation with others, to bring adversaries together and to work in harmony with one another. “For our God is not a God of disorder but a God of peace.” (1Cor 14:33). As St Francis of Assisi always prayed “Lord make us instrument of your peace.”
Those who are persecuted for righteousness sake are those who suffer persecution for the sake of the kingdom and those who persevere in suffering and die for the sake of their faith in Christ Jesus. They are the martyrs of the Church. The death of St Stephen, the first martyr of the Church is an example.
The saints we celebrate today lived according to these beatitudes. So when we persevere in the face all these demands, our reward will certainly be great in heaven. Do we notice that in the beatitudes Jesus turned the world’s standard upside down and presented it as the way to holiness and sainthood? What the world enjoys doing, Jesus asks us to do the opposite. This means that saints do not live according to the world’s standard. So if we want to be among the saints in heaven, we have to listen to Jesus by keeping to his beatitudes.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Almighty God and Father, grant us the grace to live according to the commands of the beatitudes so as to rejoice with the saints forever in heaven. Amen.