NOVEMBER 1, 2002, FEAST OF ALL SAINTS: HOMILY:  Matthew 5:1-12 

BLESSED ARE YOU WHEN PEOPLE REVILE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU AND UTTER ALL KINDS OF EVIL AGAINST YOU FOR MY SAKE. These words are taken from the first long discourse in which St. Matthew collects together a number of the teachings of Jesus. Listen among the eight beatitudes was a similar saying. It reads: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.  The righteousness that the Lord speaks of in this beatitude are acceptable in God’s eyes; they have been made pleasing to him by the good dispositions of their heart and by the fidelity of their lives.  

Throughout the whole of this Sermon on the Mount Jesus addresses himself to his disciples in the presence of a large crowd of the poor and sick. His words were at once an announcement of a new view of poverty and of suffering and an encouragement for people who were accustomed to think of themselves as insignificant. It is a matter of significance for a proper understanding of these beatitudes that they are immediately followed by the declaration to the same audience: ’You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world.’  

Most of us discover rather early in our adult years that we cannot expect to make our way very far in the world without experiencing some contradiction, rejection by at least some people we encounter socially or at work, and other kinds of stressful, unpleasant experiences. While we suffer certain difficulties of a more distressing nature we are brought to feel they are too much for us. When such distress arises from persons on whom our happiness or our peace of mind depends, we can be tempted in our faith in God. We feel that if God truly loved us he would not permit what is unjust and unmerited suffering to befall us. This feeling of injustice and the temptation to doubt God’s love is stronger when it is because we are trying to do our duty as our conscience directs us that the trial comes upon us. 

Now when we study the lives of the saints whose feast we celebrate today, we soon discover that all of them, without exception, have passed through trials of this kind. Many of them felt isolated in their sufferings precisely because they were not understood or supported by those whom they respected and loved. Whether parents, close friends, religious superiors or fellow Christians from whom these men and women had a right to expect the support of understanding and appreciation were sadly disappointed. At times this failure was due to the special gifts of grace or of nature with which these holy persons were endowed and which  enabled them to see father than others and so to take measures that were not appreciated until after their death if at all. 

However, strongly they were tempted to doubt, they called upon their faith and chose to  live by the grace of the Spirit that had been given them. They then saw in such suffering an opportunity, not a cause for discouragement and still less a source of defeat.  Often enough they understood that their pain would not disappear simply because they accepted it, but it ceased to be a temptation to doubt God’s love. Rather, it because an occasion for a more deliberate choice to take up the cross and to follow  Christ through suffering and death to life eternal with the Father.

Not one of the saints escaped such trials; not one failed to make of them an occasion for a stronger commitment to God’s service and a deeper trust in his love. Today as we commemorate their holy lives, let us resolve to imitate their example. May we too learn to find in all things, including the disappointments and slights we encounter in our daily life, an opportunity for a fuller participation in the mystery of our Lord’s passion and death. Then and only then will we found worthy to share in the lot of the saints in glory. And may the grace of this Eucharist we offer today strengthen us in this holy purpose and unite us with Mary and all the saints in the praise of God’s glory. &

  Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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