|by Angela Lambert|
November 1st, 2015; Solemnity of All Saints
Gospel Matthew 5:1-12a NAB
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
What kind of boss would fail to pay his or her employees for their work? What kind of friend would take your loyalty and sacrifices for granted? At the same time, how could you accept payment from someone who helped you? As we honor the saints this Sunday we reflect on the mystery of God’s justice and mercy. How He can be both at the same time will only be fully understood in Heaven. In fact, it will be one of the joys and marvels we will experience there. Fr. LaGrange, in his work Life Everlasting, teaches that in heaven we will see how justice and mercy are united in each and every work of God.
Justice means to give each person his or her due. According to Merriam-Webster, Mercy can be defined as “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly.” The beatitudes in the Gospel today point to something of this reality. None of us deserve or merit heaven on our own. However, through baptism we receive the mercy of God merited by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. God has revealed that in this state of unity with His Son, we then can and ought to work for the building up of His kingdom in our own heart and the hearts of others. This He rewards based on our efforts. Although we do not deserve any reward outright, it would also not be just to give everyone the exact same reward despite their difference of effort.
The way it plays out in heaven is that all who open themselves to God’s mercy receive the joy of union with God in the Beatific vision. However, in light of God’s justice, the depth of penetration of that sight depends on how much we sought God out while on earth. We must remember that we are finite/limited but God is infinite/unlimited. God deserves to be pursued (justice). To describe this stratified vision we use the term “Light of Glory.” We need light to see and the brighter the light the greater the sight. In heaven we all receive the Light of Glory, but some have more light than others. In God’s mercy we all receive this light who accept it, and in God’s justice we receive it in the measure we pursued it during our life.
An analogy might be this: I extend my friendship to anyone who wishes it, even my enemies if they choose to change. However, the intimacy of that friendship will depend on how much time and energy a friend has invested in getting to know me at a deeper level and the number of shared experiences we have. The invitation is open to everyone but the level of acceptance varies. I’m not holding out on the person who only has a superficial knowledge of me but we live in reality and intimacy takes time and openness. God is reality. His friendship is offered to all. How much intimacy you have with God wholly depends on the time, effort, and openness you invest.
At the Second Vatican Council in 1965 the Church taught about the “universal call to holiness.” It means that every human person has the opportunity to become a saint. The means of sanctity are offered to all for those who accept it. We honor the saints today as we celebrate their witness to us that total love for God is possible. They witness to the truth of Christ’s promise in the beatitudes, that the “pure of heart will see God” and that those who are insulted and persecuted in His name can “rejoice and be glad, for [our] reward will be great in heaven.” God is a merciful realist. The path is revealed to us by Christ in the Gospel. God’s grace is available to assist us. Those who work more will receive more and those who work less will receive less. It’s the most basic lesson we teach our kids. All receive more than they deserve and at the same time it is proportioned to our efforts in union with Christ. What kind of friendship do you want with God? Go after it.
- Reread the beatitudes. Which one touches you the most? Why?
- The Catechism has some beautiful reflections on this mystery. Consider this quotation from paragraph 2009:
|Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.” The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due…. Our merits are God’s gifts.”|
- Reflect on God’s mercy in your life. Consider how even the good things you do He deserves some credit for.
- Consider the times you failed to respond to God’s grace and did not live out the dignity of being His child.
- Consider the mystery of the “gift” of a “right” to Heaven through Christ. Compare it to human adoption. Parents who adopt children testify again and again that they love their adopted children as their own and see no real distinction. Adopted children have all of the rights of biological children. We have been adopted by God through Christ with the rights of being His sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of His only begotten Son Jesus.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Do something each day this week to deepen your relationship with God.
- Read a spiritual book or learn more about God.
- Spend additional time with God – in prayer, or adoration, or silence.
- Identify something that undermines your love for God and make a resolution to give it up.
- Pay it forward – extend an act of loving kindness toward someone in gratitude for God’s loving kindness toward you.
- Reflect more on the mystery of God’s Justice and Mercy by reading the Catechism sections on Justification, Grace, and Merit (paragraphs 1987-2011)
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
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