Tag Archives: saints

All Saints, Cycle B

1st Reading — The Book of Revelation (7: 2-4, 9 – 14)

This is the last book of the Bible. It abounds in unfamiliar and extravagant symbolism and language. This type of apocalyptic writing uses symbolic colors, metals, garments and numbers. It tries to show graphically how awful evil is and how much it offends the goodness of God. This book has its origin in a time of crisis and persecution, but it remains valid and meaningful for Christians of all time. In the midst of horrible evil and suffering, we are called to trust and remain faithful to Christ and to a God whose care is ever with us – and will be with us for all eternity. No matter what adversity or sacrifice we may endure as Christians, we will end in triumph over evil and pain. This is its enduring message. It is a message of hope and consolation and challenge for all who dare to believe. (The Catholic Answer Bible, Fireside Catholic Publishing, pp. 1372-1373)

Symbolism according to Word of God Lutheran Church for the Deaf in Iowa:

East:  Or the place the sun rises.  This is often connected somehow with God.

Seals:  Hide the secrets of the future. Only God knows them and opens them.

144,000:  All of God’s people.  12 means God’s people, and 10 means complete.  Cubed (10x10x10) is holy and perfect.  144,000 (12x12x10x10x10) is really ALL of God’s people, holy and perfect.

White:  Clean & pure, or victory & triumph.

Elders:  There are 24 elders:  12 Old Testament and 12 New Testament

4 Living Creatures:  Cherubim or seraphim, like God’s personal servants.  They are very close to God and His throne and carry His word.

Throne:  Where God is, the center of all His glory and power.

We often think of saints and martyrs as sort of ‘out-of-the-world’ holy people – far beyond our own experience or sense of goodness. But they were ordinary folk like us. We should find encouragement along with the challenge. God doesn’t judge us only on our weakness but on our persevering in our willingness to give of ourselves for the good of others. The simple, everyday things we do will wash us in the blood of the lamb. Our smile is a saintly one. Our gesture of kindness is an expression of blessedness. Simple, kind, ordinary ways of giving of ourselves brings the kingdom of God’s love and goodness closer (Living Liturgy, 2003, p.236).

2nd Reading – 1 John 3: 1-3

This letter is dealing with ‘false teaching’ from within the Christian church around the year 100 A.D.  Some were denying the true humanity of Christ; some also misunderstood what it meant to be Christian. This reading is dealing with the second problem. Some people were claiming to be already perfected. They saw no need for moral effort. The writer is trying to encourage them not to rely on their own strength or ‘perfection’ – but on the goodness and love of the Father that Christ has given us. We are his children and must trust as children and live as children of this good and caring Father. (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. )

But isn’t it true that when we are questioning our faith, our journey, our identity…we are also questioning if we are loved?  We need to be reminded that God’s presence is here.  God is with us.  God’s love will never leave us.  It is knit in our bones.  And right now, not just when we think we “have it all together”.  This letter from John speaks to that inner conflict we sometimes have.

The Gospel – Matthew 5: 1-12a

From Wm. Barclay, The Daily Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1:  This Sermon on the Mount could have been “the concentrated memory of many heart to heart” talks that Jesus had with his disciples.  Matthew writes that Jesus “sat down” – the typical position of a rabbi when he was teaching.

Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .

The Greek word for poor that is used here is ptochos. It means absolute and abject poverty. It describes the one who has nothing, a beggar. In Hebrew and Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, the idea of poverty underwent this kind of development: it meant poor, and because they were poor they had no power, or help or influence or honor or prestige. Finally, because of all this, they had no hope except to put their whole trust in God.  So the poor came to be described as the one who was humble and totally reliant on God: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” (Ps. 34:6)

**We must be careful not to think that Jesus is saying that actual material poverty is a good thing. Jesus would never declare ‘blessed’ a state where people live in slums and have not enough to eat.  That kind of poverty we as Christians are called to remove.

Blessed are they who mourn . . .

The word used here for mourning is the strongest word for grief in the Greek language. It is the passionate lament for a loved one. It is the kind of grief that cannot be hidden.  It is a sorrow that calls for compassion from others – and that Jesus reassures us will come from God.  God does not send ‘suffering’ – but God can help us cope with it – and even learn from it. Sorrow can ‘drive’ us to the deep things of life. We are also called by Jesus to be people who deeply care about others, who empathize and feel with them. As God became one of us in Jesus, so are we called to unite with others.  It is right to be detached from things, but it is never right to be detached from people. We are asked by Jesus to care intensely about the sufferings and needs of others – to mourn over the evil and sickness and blindness in this world –  to work with God to comfort and overcome the suffering where we can.

Blessed are the meek . . .

The Greek word for meek, praus, expressed a great ethical idea. It was the happy medium between too much and too little anger. It was also commonly used to describe an animal that had been domesticated, trained. It was also the opposite of pride and “lofty-heartedness’. It meant true humility. It is a quality that helps us to realize the truth about ourselves — that we need to learn and to be forgiven – that we need to be God-controlled: gentle towards others and open to God’s Holy Spirit.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst . . .

Few of us really know what it is to be hungry or thirsty. In our abundance, we rarely starve for food or die of thirst – even if we use these words often. Yet, this is the kind of hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about –a starving and thirsting for goodness, for what is right. God does not care just about our achievements, but also about our dreams – our yearnings – our hungers. If we hunger and thirst for God’s goodness, Jesus tells us that God will supply our need.

Blessed are the merciful . . .

The Hebrew idea for mercy that Jesus is using means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we see things with his/her eyes, think things with his/her mind, and feel with his/her feelings. This is what God did in Jesus: God came to be one with us. Jesus is asking us to let God help us to reach out in the same way to others.

Blessed are the pure in heart (clean of heart) . . .

The Greek words for pure is katharos; it has a variety of meanings. It means clean, such as soiled clothes that have been washed clean. It was also used to describe corn or wheat that had been winnowed or sifted and cleansed of all its chaff. It also was often used to mean unadulterated or unmixed – such as a pure metal or wine. Jesus is calling us to be people who are sincerely who we are – not to be fake or have hidden agendas.

Blessed are the peacemakers . . .

The Hebrew idea of peace is expressed in the word shalom. It means everything which makes life good, full, healthy. It is the presence of all good things.  We are called not just to be peace-lovers, but peace-makers. It can be that if we love peace in the wrong way, we may allow a dangerous or threatening situation to develop and not take any action to prevent it because we ‘just want peace and quiet.’  As peacemakers, we are not to pile up troubles for another day, but to do all we can to create life-giving situations. What this beatitude is demanding is that we do not passively accept things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things and the making of peace even when the way to peace is through struggle.  We are to make the world a better place for all to live in – to help create right relationships with all others. Peacemakers are people in whose presence bitterness cannot live – people who bridge the gulfs and heal the broken – and sweeten the bitterness of life. Such people do God’s work.

Blessed are those who are persecuted . . .

Jesus is honest; being his follower is not going to be easy. But it is the way God will bless this world with God’s presence and strength. It is the way to abundant life. Jesus wants us to remember that despite persecution and hardship, “Our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121)

This feast day was originally one for the early martyrs, when there were so many that all the names could not be listed. This is long before there was anything official about canonization. Also, in the New Testament all baptized Christians were called saints, hagioi, holy ones. The Greek means, ‘called as saints.” (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. )  Who do you think of on this day?

The Communion of Saints is an important reminder that our relationship with God and with Christ is both vertical and horizontal, and that our relationship is always mediated. “In the lives of those who shared in our humanity and yet were transformed into especially successful images of Christ, God vividly manifests to humankind his presence and his face.  He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of his Kingdom, to which we are powerfully drawn . . . our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ.” (R. P. McBrien, Catholicism, Vol.II, 890; Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church)

Those in heaven live fully with God,

yet they remain united to us in love . . .

They pray for us.

They worship with us.

They lend us their spiritual strength in our weakness . . .

In the Eucharist, the whole communion of Christ,

living and dead,

gathers around the table . . .

we experience a profound closeness

with those who have gone before us . . .

It is a marvelous gathering of heaven and earth!

(Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,#49)

All Saints Day, cycle B

 

beatitudes

1st Reading — The Book of Revelation (7: 2-4, 9 – 14)

This is the last book of the Bible. It abounds in unfamiliar and extravagant symbolism and language. This type of apocalyptic writing uses symbolic colors, metals, garments and numbers. It tries to show graphically how awful evil is and how much it offends the goodness of God. This book has its origin in a time of crisis and persecution, but it remains valid and meaningful for Christians of all time. In the midst of horrible evil and suffering, we are called to trust and remain faithful to Christ and to a God whose care is ever with us – and will be with us for all eternity. No matter what adversity or sacrifice we may endure as Christians, we will end in triumph over evil and pain. This is its enduring message. It is a message of hope and consolation and challenge for all who dare to believe. (The Catholic Answer Bible, Fireside Catholic Publishing, pp. 1372-1373)

Symbolism according to Word of God Lutheran Church for the Deaf in Iowa:

East:  Or the place the sun rises.  This is often connected somehow with God.

Seals:  Hide the secrets of the future. Only God knows them and opens them.

144,000:  All of God’s people.  12 means God’s people, and 10 means complete.  Cubed (10x10x10) is holy and perfect.  144,000 (12x12x10x10x10) is really ALL of God’s people, holy and perfect.

White:  Clean & pure, or victory & triumph.

Elders:  There are 24 elders:  12 Old Testament and 12 New Testament

4 Living Creatures:  Cherubim or seraphim, like God’s personal servants.  They are very close to God and His throne and carry His word.

Throne:  Where God is, the center of all His glory and power.

We often think of saints and martyrs as sort of ‘out-of-the-world’ holy people – far beyond our own experience or sense of goodness. But this Sunday should remind us that they were also ordinary folk like us. We should find encouragement along with the challenge. God doesn’t judge us only on our weakness but on our persevering in our willingness to give of ourselves for the good of others. The simple, everyday things we do will wash us in the blood of the lamb. Our smile is a saintly one. Our gesture of kindness is an expression of blessedness. Simple, kind, ordinary ways of giving of ourselves brings the kingdom of God’s love and goodness closer . . . (Living Liturgy, 2003, p.236)

2nd Reading – 1 John 3: 1-3

 

This letter is dealing with ‘false teaching’ from within the Christian church around the year 100 A.D.  Some were denying the true humanity of Christ; some also misunderstood what it meant to be Christian. This reading is dealing with the second problem. Some people were claiming to be already perfected. They saw no need for moral effort. The writer is trying to encourage them not to rely on their own strength or ‘perfection’ – but on the goodness and love of the Father that Christ has given us. We are his children and must trust as children and live as children of this good and caring Father.

(Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. )

But isn’t it true that when we are questioning our faith, our journey, our identity…we are also questioning where love is in that deep well in ourselves?  We need to be reminded that God’s presence is here.  God is with us.  God’s love will never leave us.  It is knit in our bones.  And right now, not just when we think we “have it all together”.  This letter from John speaks to that inner conflict we sometimes have.

The Gospel – Matthew 5: 1-12a

This Sermon on the Mount was “the concentrated memory of many heart to heart” talks that Jesus probably had with his disciples.  This is what he would teach them. Matthew writes that Jesus “sat down” – the typical position of a rabbi when he was teaching. He also says: “He opened his mouth and taught them.” This Greek phrase meant two things: 1) it was used of a solemn, serious, and dignified utterance – often used when referring to the saying of an oracle. 2) It was also used when a person was really opening his heart and fully pouring out his mind – an intimate and profound teaching.

Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .

The Greek word for poor that is used here is ptochos. It means absolute and abject poverty. It describes the one who has nothing, a beggar. In Hebrew and Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, this idea of poverty underwent this kind of development: it meant poor, and because they were poor they had no power, or help or influence or honor or prestige. Finally, because of all this, they had no hope except to put their whole trust in God.  So the poor came to describe the one who was humble and totally reliant on God: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” (Ps. 34:6) See also Psalms 9:18, 35:10, 68:10, 107:41 to name just a few.

**We must be careful not to think that Jesus is saying that actual material poverty is a good thing. Jesus would never declare ‘blessed’ a state where people live in slums and have not enough to eat, and where health rots because conditions are all against it.  That kind of poverty we as Christians are called to remove.

Blessed are they who mourn . . .

The word used here for mourning is the strongest word for grief in the Greek language. It is the passionate lament for a loved one. It is the kind of grief that cannot be hidden.  It is a sorrow that calls for compassion from others – and that Jesus reassures us will come from God.  God does not send ‘suffering’ – but God can help us cope with it – and even learn from it. Sorrow can ‘drive’ us to the deep things of life. We are also called by Jesus to be people who deeply care about others, who empathize and feel with them. As God became one of us in Jesus, so are we called to unite with others.  It is right to be detached from things, but it is never right to be detached from people. We are  asked by Jesus to care intensely about the sufferings and needs of others – to mourn over the evil and sickness and blindness in this world –  to work with God to comfort and overcome the suffering where we can.

Blessed are the meek . . .

The Greek word for meek, praus, expressed a great ethical idea. It was the happy medium between too much and too little anger. It was also commonly used to describe an animal that had been domesticated, trained. It was also the opposite of pride and “lofty-heartedness’. It meant true humility. It is a quality that helps us to realize the truth about ourselves — that we need to learn and to be forgiven – that we need to be God-controlled: gentle towards others and open to God’s Holy Spirit.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst . . .

Few of us really know what it is to be hungry or thirsty. In our abundance, we rarely starve for food or die of thirst – even if we use these words often. Yet, this is the kind of hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about –a starving and thirsting for goodness, for what is right. God does not care just about our achievements, but also about our dreams – our yearnings – our hungers. If  we hunger and thirst for God’s goodness, Jesus tells us that God will supply our need.

Blessed are the merciful . . .

The Hebrew idea for mercy that Jesus is using means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel with his feelings. This is what God did in Jesus: God came to be one with us. Jesus is asking us to let God help us to reach out in the same way to others.

Blessed are the pure in heart (clean of heart) . . .

The Greek words for pure is katharos; it has a variety of meanings. It means clean, such as soiled clothes that have been washed clean. It was also used to describe corn or wheat that had been winnowed or sifted and cleansed of all its chaff. It also was often used to mean unadulterated or unmixed – such as a pure metal or wine. Jesus is calling us to be people who are sincerely who we are – not to be fake or have hidden agendas.

Blessed are the peacemakers . . .

The Hebrew idea of peace is expressed in the word shalom. It means everything which makes life good, full, healthy. It is the presence of all good things.  We are called not just to be peace-lovers, but peace-makers. It can be that if we love peace in the wrong way, we may allow a dangerous or threatening situation to develop and not take any action to prevent it because we ‘just want peace and quiet.’  As peacemakers, we are not to pile up troubles for another day, but to do all we can to create life-giving situations. What this beatitude is demanding is that we do not passively accept things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things and the making of peace even when the way to peace is through struggle.  We are to make the world a better place for all to live in – to help create right relationships with all others. Peacemakers are people in whose presence bitterness cannot live – people who bridge the gulfs and heal the broken – and sweeten the bitterness of life. Such people do God’s work.

Blessed are those who are persecuted . . .

Jesus is honest; being his follower is not going to be easy. But it is the way God will bless this world with God’s presence and strength. It is the way to abundant life. Jesus wants us to remember that despite persecution and hardship “Our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121)

(Wm. Barclay, The Daily Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1)

This feast day was originally one for the early martyrs, when there were so many that all the names could not be listed. This is long before there was anything official about canonization. Also, in the New Testament all baptized Christians were called saints, hagioi, holy ones. The Greek means, ‘called as saints.” (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. )  Who or what do you think of on this day?

The Communion of Saints is an important reminder that our relationship with God and with Christ is both vertical and horizontal, and that our relationship is always mediated. “In the lives of those who shared in our humanity and yet were transformed into especially successful images of Christ, God vividly manifests to humankind his presence and his face.  He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of his Kingdom, to which we are powerfully drawn . . . our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ.” (R. P. McBrien, Catholicism, Vol.II, 890; Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church)

“What Jesus wants from us is not admiration, but imitation . . .the incarnation is still going on and it is just as real and as radically physical as when Jesus of Nazareth, in the flesh, walked the dirt roads of Palestine.”  (Ronald Rolheiser, Holy Longing, 74, 76)

Those in heaven live fully with God,

yet they remain united to us in love . . .

They pray for us.

They worship with us.

They lend us their spiritual strength in our weakness . . .

In the Eucharist, the whole communion of Christ,

living and dead,

gathers around the table . . .

we experience a profound closeness

with those who have gone before us . . .

It is a marvelous gathering of heaven and earth!

(Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,#49)

 

Our Cloud of Witnesses by: Kristine Rooney

clouds

     I recently started working on my family tree through www.ancestry.com at the prodding of a friend, and I have been amazed at the mysteries I have uncovered so far,  The most amazing discovery is that it has prompted my father to look for his birth parents after all these years.  He has never wanted to know who they are, and they are most likely not on this earth anymore, but the longing to just know is there.  The exploration of my family history has made me think deeply about this “cloud of witnesses” that we heard about in our readings this past Sunday.

      In the letter to the Hebrews, we read, “Brothers and sisters:  Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith  (12:1-2).”  When I first started plugging names into the family tree, they were names that didn’t mean a lot to me.  It’s interesting how you don’t have to go back very far before you don’t really know who your relatives are anymore  (How fast will I be forgotten?).  But it is the smallest of facts that start to draw you in.  For example, my mother’s father, who died before I knew him, has the same birthday as my husband.  My father’s mother had a sister that died when she was only 2 years old.  I found a picture of my mother’s grandfather that used to hang in my grandmother’s house.  I remember it because he was a small boy but wearing a turquoise dress (It would freak me out when I slept there overnight!).  I found a boarding pass for a boat trip my father’s parents enjoyed.  These relatives of mine aren’t just names on a tree; they were people that had struggles and joys and days filled with so many memorable moments.  They are my cloud of witnesses.

      Many of the censuses that come up as records of my relatives’ existence are handwritten.  An official person would walk door to door, and ask about the status of these people’s lives.  There would be checks next to names, updates made if someone died or was born.  My father’s grandparents were asked if they owned a radio (They didn’t.).  This whole process of family discovery is helping me see that I am only one link in a chain of family.  Someday, someone will find a record of me in a census list, and I will be part of the cloud of witnesses too.  Each link of the family chain was created because of a choice someone made.  Out of a choice of love for another, a marriage blooms, babies are made and the chain continues.  This family tree is a witness of the choices people have made out of love and it is a cloud of support and strength to those who were left behind.

     It is comforting.  As I run the race of this life…as we all do…we have this gift of our faith that tells us our families are still with us.  They are here to support us, to tell us they have been there, to be fully present to us despite the physicality.  We need them.  And eventually, our future great, great-grandchildren/nieces/nephews/etc. will need us too.  We all will get to be this cloud of witnesses, with our eyes ever fixed on the creator that makes it all possible.  We have a loving God that knows our journeys can sometimes be tough, so God gives us a support team to help us out.  It’s good news, and something I’m thankful for today.