This year a special poignancy attends our annual celebration of the communion of the saints, as we recall the saints triumphant and mourn loved ones who have died. Wave after wave of images of death, destruction and seemingly unending rituals of funerals and memorial services wash over our conscious hours. The evil of Sept. 11 almost drowns any consideration of goodness and holiness. Yet that same evil came to be replaced by images of the those values lyrically recounted by Matthew, as we have seen before our very eyes that the mourners have been comforted, that mercy has been shown, that peacemakers rise up and that the meek rather than the violent are the true heirs of God’s gifts.
The Book of Revelation gives us a vision of the ultimate triumph of those saints who have survived the time of great distress. Jesus’ Beatitudes are our marching orders for the pilgrimage through the great distress. Followers of Christ are called to live a remarkable paradox: that true happiness comes to those whose lives are totally out of kilter with the powerful, the violent and the persecutors. Candlelight vigils and processions illumined the fading day during the days and weeks following the horrors of early September. Each candle reminds us that our way through suffering and darkness has been guided by holy and good people, named and unnamed, who have been beacons of hope. Absurd though it may seem, those people called happy and blessed by Jesus are signs that even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it (Pope John Paul II, Sept. 12, 2001).
• With confidence, pray often the prayer of the tax collector, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
• Prayerfully examine your tendencies to define your goodness by contrast to the defects of others.
• Prayerfully construct a calendar of saints who have given you light and hope.