When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
This week’s Gospel offers great hope and praise, for us all. Somewhere in that list of beatitudes I’m guessing each and everyone can hear Jesus speaking to our hearts. For years mine was always “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (5:9) because as a peace officer I took solace in this blessing. I was indeed a child of God. In reality, we are all children of God. We don’t have to pursue a life in law enforcement to identify with this particular blessing. Many of us has also had a time in our lives when we were “poor in spirit” and felt down trodden and Jesus tells us that ours is the kingdom of heaven.(5:10)
You see, once again it’s how you choose to view the world, or in this instance, the parable. I for one have always identified with the loving and caring side of our Lord and savior and I strove to be one of those who fit into a category that would be accepted into heaven in the first place. Oh, I don’t mean perfect. As human I know I, or we, will never be perfect. I mean I’m a repentant sinner who recognizes that I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I know I need Jesus to reach heaven. On my own I have little to no chance.
My Methodist upbringing is showing through a little bit. Now allow me to switch back to what it means to me to be Episcopalian. This coming Sunday is All Saints Sunday and this year it actually even falls on November 1st so we don’t have to guess which Sunday to celebrate it. I knew very little about All Saints Sunday until about 10 years ago when someone mentioned that everyone could bring a picture of their departed loved one (their Saint if you will) to church and place it on the altar or a table near the altar. The became a literal visual aid, a representation of who each of us considers our personal cloud of witnesses.
Death really had never come very close (personally) to me until February 1999 when my mother (Lucie D. Roy) died unexpectedly from a suspected heart attack. As a peace officer I had experienced death often, but it was not up close and personal until 1999 when it was my mom. I always had kept death in its own neat little professional box. It didn’t have much control over me because it didn’t personally affect me. This experience with death changed me and my perspective forever. I guess you could say I became a member of a club I had no intention of joining.
On All Saints Day I remember walking to the front of St John’s with the picture of my mother and the rush of emotions that swept over me even though she had been in heaven for 10 years. The lump in my throat, the tears that I did my best to hold back and the uneasy feeling that life would never be the same without her all were present that day in church and I felt as though she were closer then she had been in many years. That the veil that separates us was perhaps just a little bit thinner, at that moment, she was so vivid in my memory. Time just seemed to stop, if only for a few minutes. Death is just another part of life and will one day overtake us all but hopefully after a long and happy life spent with those we love and want to spend time with.
As I’ve said before one of my favorite musical artists is Carrie Newcomer. She has written a song about All Saints Day in which she talks about the veil between life and death that separates us being just a little thinner at times. And she speaks of hearing voices that are perhaps from the other side, our departed loved ones?! While there is so much about heaven we don’t know, we do know that Jesus has told us that in heaven there is a place for us. “In my father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you” (John 14:2). I hope to see you all there one day, just not too soon.
Here is a video of Carrie’s song.
Peace and blessings,