–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others 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 so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:1-12 ESV)
On Sunday, November 1st, the Church celebrated the Feast of All Saints’ Day. On this day, the Church remembers all the faithful who have gone before us and entered into rest as they await the day of resurrection. On this day, this passage from the Sermon on the Mount is the traditional Gospel reading.
It is, in a sense, a detailed description of all the saints whom we remember on this day. The saints of the Lord are those who were poor in spirit and have received the kingdom of heaven, who mourned and were comforted, who were meek and have already received their inheritance, who hungered and thirsted for righteousness and have been satisfied, who were merciful and merc-ied, who are pure in heart and now see God, who were peacemakers and are sons of God, who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake, who were reviled on account of Christ. They were and are these things and have received these gifts not because they were in themselves perfect or exceptional, but because they were Christ’s. By virtue of their Baptisms, they are the blessed ones of the Lord. Jesus lives in them, and therefore while here on earth they lived out their lives as Christians in all these ways. In Christ’s victory and life they now live, having received the gifts of the Blessed One, even as they await the final consummation of the resurrection of the body.
Even as we look towards the saints — our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, perhaps even our children — as examples of the Christian life, that is, of the life lived by faith in the Son of God, we, too, are already the blessed. We, too, by virtue of our Baptisms into Christ’s life and death for us, live as the poor in spirit, hunger and thirst for righteousness, show mercy, are pure in heart, mourn and are comforted, are persecuted for Christ’s sake, are meek.
We and they do so and are so and receive all that is promised here because there is One who has gone before us all, the Lord Jesus Christ. He, the Blessed One of God, was poor in spirit; mourned; was the meekest man ever to walk the earth; hungered and thirsted for the righteousness of God; was pure in heart; was the Peacemaker between God and man; and was persecuted, reviled, falsely accused, beaten, shamed and killed for us. He inherited the kingdom and gives it to us. He comforts us even as we mourn. He shows mercy to us and in us and through us. He sees God and ushers us into His presence. He inherited the earth and all that is in it and makes us fellow heirs. He makes us to hunger and thirst after righteousness and then satisfies us with His very body and blood. He makes us sons of God through Holy Baptism. And so we give thanks for those who have gone before us and remind us that we, like them, are the blessed of the Lord. And we give thanks for the Blessed One, who ushers us all into that life. Blessed are you, you saint of the Lord.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Blessed One, we give You thanks and praise for all the blessed saints You have sustained in this life and who now see You face-to-face. We ask that You would sustain us as we live and serve our neighbors, strengthen us through the example of Your holy saints, and keep us, with them, in the one true faith until the Day of Resurrection; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.