All Saints Day, November 1st 2015
One of the recent introductions into the funeral of a love one has been the sharing of memories given by a family member. I have often been moved as a priest listening to these reflections and tributes to a loved one, As each family takes time to reflect on the deep loving influence of their beloved so we are often given an insight to the deep qualities of a person that may not be known to people outside the family. The warmth of their personality often shines forth and even their simplest gifts are seen to have has an immense value on others especially those closest to them.
These character traits are close to the Beatitudes that feature prominently in the lives of All Saints that the Church celebrates today. It is true to say many of the Saints have performed great actions in the building of Churches, Schools, Hospitals and institutions but it is their inner qualities of integrity, honesty, kindness, compassion and humility which single them out for imitation and following. In a world of today that places much emphasis on being successful, it is the activities a person does that often denote their level of success. For Jesus it is different, for Jesus it is the character of a person that pleases God and who makes for a successful Saint, a Kingdom achiever.
Today's Feast asks us to look at the values that we hold dear and the ways in which we are seeking to develop the virtues or beatitudes that Jesus draws attention to in the Gospel of today. All of us seek for happiness and the road to this happiness is described by Jesus as "seeking first the Kingdom of God." To seek God first is the key to happiness and results in a character that is detached from material possessions and selfish needs. To be available for others is to be merciful, compassionate, understanding and a peacemaker. These qualities come from being attentive to God, listening to his word and asking for his wisdom and understanding. The beatitudes produce people who value simplicity, silence and solitude over notoriety, popularity and status. The Saints valued their personal relationship with Christ,and sought to follow Christ's teachings above the values of the society that they lived in. At the same time they drew strength from belonging to the Body of Christ, their Christian family members who shared their journey with them. They have undertaken a process of healing and reconciliation that makes then content in their own being. They arrive at inner contentment free from bitterness, anger and discontentment that comes from criticism from others. Their yearning for God is developed through their value for fasting as well as feasting. Evidence of their healing is often shown by their gift of humour, as the saying goes" a gloomy saint is no saint at all". They know their own limitations and weaknesses and stayed close to the Church making sure they received the sacraments as often as possible.
The Church reminds us today that we have their constant companionship around us to pray with us and help us at every step of the journey. Today we are asked to call out to the Saints of God to help us to be content in our being to help us to do no self harm. Saints of God help us to be true to ourself, to have no pretence, or put on airs and graces but choose those qualities from God that will make us a person of the beatitudes. Let us take some quiet time together to value our gifts and our beatitudes in the light if today's Gospel.