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John R. DonahueOctober 21, 2000

As the days shorten and the beautiful autumn colors begin to fade, the church reminds us of both the splendor and frailty of Christian life. Goodness and love of God and neighbor in the lives of countless and nameless holy ones have illumined our way, but they have departed as we commemorate the feasts of All Saints and All Souls (el día de los muertos). Last Sunday we celebrated one of the little people, Bartimaeus, who followed Jesus on the way; today we celebrate the succession of the saints, that great multitude which no one could count (Rev. 7:9).

Though we think of saints today as models of virtue signaled by elaborate canonization ceremonies, in Acts and Paul saint is used as virtual synonym for members of the Christian community, even of communities like Corinth (1 Cor. 1:1) that, by our standards, embraced those with less than heroic virtue (squabbling about power, engaged in strange sexual behavior, fighting over the liturgy). The Gospel proclaims Jesus’ inaugural sermon, which heralds those paradoxical attitudes that bring blessing and happiness before God. Strangely blessed and happy are people who are marginal, grieving or nonviolent and those who hunger and die for a just world, along with those who bring consolation and peacein short, all the saints.

Matthew’s Beatitudes constitute Jesus’ platform for election to God’s kingdom. As our own election nears we are sated with platforms, programs, promises and an overdose of platitudes. But we must ask ourselves who cares about the kind of people envisioned by the beatitudes. These are the new silent majority, yet it is this majority, silent among us or silent in death, whose enduring presence we memorialize these days.

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