Gospel Reflections

Feast of All Saints

Matthew 5:1-12a

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Mary Ann Cook

Published: November 01, 2015

In the first reading of today’s Liturgy of the Word, an angel carrying “the seal of the living God” impresses it on the foreheads of “the servants of our God,” identifying them as God’s chosen ones, assured of God’s protection. As if through a window into heaven, we are shown a vast multitude “from every nation, race, people and tongue” standing “before the throne and before the Lamb,” clothed in white robes, carrying palm branches, and joyously proclaiming, “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” An elder in the assembly explains: “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14)

Although the reading in the Lectionary ends here, the verses that follow expand and deepen our understanding of God’s love for this “vast multitude,” this cloud of witnesses “who have survived the time of great distress:”

The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (7:15-17).

Today’s Feast of All Saints invites us to remember women and men we have known who, when they were still here on earth, taught us something of what it means to be servants of God, and inspired us to go and do likewise. Perhaps today’s Gospel (the Beatitudes) will bring some of them to mind:

  • a fellow parishioner whose simplicity of life showed me how to be “poor in spirit,” finding my joy in God rather than material possessions;
  • a generous friend whose forgiveness of a deep hurt I had caused taught me the liberating joy of giving and receiving mercy;
  • a senior colleague whose courageous invitation to dialogue helped co-workers find their way to fruitful collaboration in a happier work environment. Happy indeed are the peacemakers!

Memories like these can put flesh and blood on the Beatitudes, and on what it means to be a saint. (Mt 5: 1-12a)

Salvation does indeed come from God. In God’s plan, however, salvation comes in and through God’s holy (and sinful) people, the broken body of Christ. Like the unsung saints we are celebrating today, we too are called to be instruments of God’s love, channels of God’s grace, for one another. As the second reading proclaims, “we are God’s children now” (1 John: 1-3) – sisters and brothers all. God shepherds us, leads us to springs of life-giving water, wipes the tears from our eyes through the people God gives us as companions on our journey: family, friends, colleagues, clients, neighbors, strangers, pleasant, difficult. Sometimes we are sheep, receiving guidance, sustenance, comfort. Sometimes we are shepherds, showing the way, sharing life-giving water, offering consolation.

The feast of All Saints reminds us that we, like the vast multitude before God’s throne, bear “the seal of the living God” as the badge of our identity. Marked with the sign of Christ’s cross in Baptism, sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit in confirmation, we are God’s servants, called to be channels of God’s power, wisdom and love for one another. We have good reason to join our earthly worship to that of heaven:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 7:12)

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