From Whitsun we have been reflecting on being the Church in the world and now All Saints Day brings the season of Pentecost to a climax with the witness of the thousands upon thousands of individuals who have been shining lights within the life of the Church for Christ’s kingdom.
The kingdom of heaven was not a vague end time proclamation that Jesus announced but an alternative domain to the way of the world that begins here and is raised to eternity. The conduct and examples of the “saints” are for us always a dramatic contrast with the standards of the religion-less world. Far from being simply pious and nice people doing good, the saints were acutely aware of the power of evil both in the world and also in themselves, and the destructiveness that evil brings, their attitude was summed up by St John [12,35-36], we are called to become sons of light, lest the darkness overtakes us and we do not know where we are going… They knew where they were going and were not sidetracked.
We are living today in an age where there is almost a total absence of the sense of the soul, little idea of the divine, and unwillingness to recognise the deadly power of evil that has reached pandemic proportions. Today the virtues of the Judeo-Christian culture have been rejected; the people of Christ and his kingdom will be bound to keep alive their sacred history and the memory of the heroes of faith.
The Gospel reading for the day is the remarkable summary at the heart of the Lord’s kingdom teaching on holiness called the “Beatitudes”. Blessed are the God fearing, who know their need, who have a gentle spirit, who thirst for goodness, are merciful and pure of heart are some o the characteristics of the kingdom. If this is thought to be far too difficult, then one only needs to see the scale of the enemy the kingdom people face. The cruelty of dictatorships, or the violence against the police, paramedics, fire and emergency services on the streets and hospitals among many things that witness to the challenge we face. The saints are our heroes who precede us, and, inspire us to raise our mediocre game and become participants with them in the kingdom of heaven.
A crucial part of the Christian mind is “remembrance” which we do at every gathering for the Eucharist and daily when we read Holy Scripture or recall the men and women, the young and old of every race culture and generation who in their lives revealed the light that shines in the darkest of places. We stand on the shoulders of these giants of holiness who withstood whatever the world threw at them. Such people as the very earliest saints like St Moses and St Anthony who came from North Africa as well as those from the Middle East and Europe were those whom the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he described as the “great cloud of witnesses who surround us “. For we are like athletes in a stadium being urged and encouraged by those who raced before us and now it is our turn to” run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Fr. Geoffrey Neal