All Saints Day – Sister Mary Ann Cook, SNDdeN

Oct 30, 2022 | Gospel Reflections

November 1, 2022

Matthew 5: 1-12a

Today’s first reading gives us an inspiring vision: “A great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue,” stands before the throne of God. They are “wearing white robes, holding palm branches in their hands,” and crying out: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” Their triumphant cries, we soon learn, have been hard won: “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress. . . .” (Revelation 7: 9-14)

We are surrounded by this cloud of witnesses — “survivors” who have run the race and continually intercede for our troubled world at the throne of God. They remind us that “Salvation comes from God,” whose power makes up for all that is lacking in our human weakness, vulnerability and sin. God’s saving grace is infinitely greater than the seemingly hopeless tangle of evil causing so much suffering and desolation across our world today. Our white-robed mentors and friends seem to call out to us reassuringly from the Book of Revelation: Trust the saving power of God’s compassionate, faithful, unconditional love! Nothing is impossible for God!

Their testimony is reinforced in today’s Gospel (Mt 5:1-12a). “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus declares — those who, knowing their weakness, vulnerability and sinfulness, cling to God for help. “Theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” – already. In other words, even the desire to trust in the Father’s love for us in face of seemingly insuperable odds is itself a grace – a sign that God already reigns in their minds and hearts.

Baptized into the Body of our Risen Lord, we are called to participate in Christ’s saving mission, especially on behalf of people made poor by systemic injustice. seemingly endless warfare, mindless violence, natural and man-made disasters, forced migrations – the list is endless. Today’s gospel challenges us to compassionate prayer, sacrifice and action on behalf of the earthly multitude of our sisters and brothers across the world who mourn the loss of loved ones, livelihoods, homes, possessions, dignity and freedom. We need to pray also for all those laboring to alleviate the suffering of others, and daring to speak truth to power.

It’s for each of us also to discern, according to our particular circumstances, what concrete actions we might contribute to the cause of healing, restoration and peace – even in our own small corner of the world. Talking through differences within our own families, or among our own co-workers may seem a hopelessly insignificant act of peacemaking, given the scale of hostility across the globe. Yet, caught up into the saving mission of the Risen Christ, it becomes an instrument of blessing.

Several Sundays ago, a reading from Exodus included a magnificent image of persistent communal prayer: Moses, having sent Joshua into battle against a powerful enemy named Amalek, stands holding God’s staff at the top of a hill overlooking the fight. His arms are extended, his hands lifted up to heaven. “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight,” we’re told, “but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” Moses becomes so exhausted that he can hold up his hands no more. So Aaron and Hur have him sit on a rock, and they kneel on either side of him, holding his hands up for him until the victory is won. (Ex 17:8-13)

On this feast of All Saints, we need to kneel at the side of our sisters and brothers around the world who are relentlessly beset by an abundance of “Amaleks.” They may be too exhausted to pray. They may be tempted to despair of God’s love for them. Let us hold up their hands with our own as we pray in the words of today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 24):

“Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face!”



Matthew 5: 1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”
The Gospel of the Lord



Meet Sister Mary Ann Cook, SNDdeN

Sister Mary Ann Cook entered Notre Dame in 1954, at Ilchester, Maryland. Her ministries include a brief stint in parochial-school teaching before she was missioned to the English Department at Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University). Exploring major works of Western literature with undergraduates left her with a particular love for poetry and drama. Serving as Trinity’s Academic Dean taught her the value of interdisciplinary learning, and engendered strong interest in curriculum- development and organizational planning. In 1978, , she began working in an innovative post-conciliar adult faith-formation program called Education for Parish Service (EPS), designed to equip lay Catholics for fuller participation in the Church’s life and mission. Its eight substantive foundational courses in theology, scripture and evangelization carried CEUs, and were taught by faculty from nearby universities. EPS grew into a network of eight programs serving five U.S. dioceses and the Vicariate of Rome. Over time, its design was picked up by independent affiliates in London, North Dakota, California and Wisconsin. Over its 33-year life cycle, Sister Mary Ann served as a facilitator, lecturer, academic-program director and, eventually, chief executive officer. She counts her EPS experience as a major influence on her own faith development, her work with Associates of Notre Dame and her appreciation of the church’s rich diversity. Sister Mary Ann’s formal ministries and SND community responsibilities included “working visits” to England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Italy and the Holy Land, as well as opportunities to participate in international meetings of SNDs from across the world . Now a retiree at Mount Notre Dame in Cincinnati (OH), she is exploring ways of drawing “new treasures as well as old” from her storehouse in service of others (Mt 13: 52). God is indeed good!