Today is the feast of All Saints. Since the solemnity falls on a Sunday this year, we hear the Lectionary readings assigned for the feast rather than for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. (Mt 5:6)
How do the Beatitudes help you to reflect on the present and future?
How does Scripture influence your vote?
What can you do to live out the Gospel?
In Matthew, Jesus frequently interprets, reframes and expands upon Jewish laws and traditions. Today we hear the Beatitudes, which are at the beginning of a series of discourses.
Like Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai to receive the law, Jesus ascends a mountain to teach the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus highlights multiple groups who are blessed—people who are: 1) poor in spirit, 2) mourning, 3) meek, 4) hungry and thirsty for righteousness, 5) merciful, 6) pure in heart, 7) peacemakers and 8) persecuted for righteousness’ sake and insulted.
Matthew emphasizes aspects of spiritual growth, divine comfort, suffering and future rewards. The first group, those who are poor in spirit, are blessed for their openness to receiving God in their lives. In his important work, A Theology of Liberation, Gustavo Gutiérrez notes that being poor in spirit is an essential state for receiving the Word of God. The spiritual poverty called for in Matthew’s Beatitudes recognizes the need to seek fullness through prayer and living out the Gospel message of love. Those actions enable the poor in spirit to connect with God and others, leading to the kingdom of heaven.
Similarly, several of the other blessed groups show openness and attentiveness to the world around them. People who mourn express sadness, dismay and grief in order to receive comfort. People who are meek live humbly, and people who are merciful, seek righteousness, live purely and make peace emulate God through their actions.
The last two beatitudes focus on those who suffer during persecution, especially apt for All Saints’ Day. Matthew compares these people to the prophets of the past who were also rejected and persecuted. Matthew’s dual blessing and comfort responds to challenges of his community and acknowledges the expectation of future pain and blessings.
Most of the rewards in the Beatitudes are future-oriented, which is both comforting and frustrating. While many of the readings from Matthew over the past few months have had an eschatological slant to them, they can sometimes leave people feeling dejected, as future rewards do not resolve present-day suffering.
But the Beatitudes can be read with an eye to the present, not only the future. The groups that are highlighted show characteristics that we should aspire to have today. These statements are about how people live, even in the face of adversity; and they remind us that actions, not only words, reveal faith in Christ. On All Saints’ Day, in addition to reflecting on the lives of saints, we are called to be saints. Today’s Gospel reveals how to live as Christ did.
During this grueling election season, politicians have invoked religion to appeal to certain segments of the electorate. As you cast your ballot, let the Gospel message of love and the Beatitudes inspire you to elect leaders who strive to be saints and to live out their faith righteously.