“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6.22-23 RSV)
Today, my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. It is the Sunday upon which we celebrate all those Christians who have attained the Beatific vision in Heaven.
That is to say, today we celebrate all those who, having finished their course in this world now see God directly…face to face, instead of indirectly, through the sacraments, or prayer, or grace.
Today, we celebrate those Christians whom the Church is certain have attained this blessed vision. These are the people whom we put title of affection Saint in the front of….people like Saint John, the patron of this parish.
Folks like Saint Mary Magdalene- who converted emperors, Saint Thomas- who placed his hand in the side of our Lord…folks like Saint Mary the Virgin, the mother of Our Lord.
We give them the title of honor…Saint…because of their great faith on earth…because of their closeness to God…because we can see clearly and without question in the works of their life, the person of Jesus Christ.
These Saints stand above and beyond most of us. They attained a state of holiness in this world that commends them as examples to be followed and persons to whom we should ask to pray for us.
If you will notice and pay particular attention to our Liturgy and our prayers we spend a good deal of time praying for the souls of the faithfully departed…praying that they may have a good judgment…that they may have rest eternal…that they may be saved and found worthy to stand at the Last Day.
But we do not do so for those persons who have attained this beatific vision, these Saints…instead we ask them to pray to God for us…because we know of their holiness and their closeness and union with Jesus Christ.
This idea of praying for the dead and asking the prayers of the Saints is one that forces us to think about our world…and the reality of God’s Kingdom.
For when we remember and pray for the ones we love who have died…or when we ask the saints to pray for us, we enter into a spiritual reality that defies human reason.
Meaning, in a secular worldview, a worldview that is founded on reason, it is ridiculous to pray for our loved ones who have departed this life…for they are dead and totally removed from our lives and are only left in our memories…and it is the same with the saints…they are gone and live on only in history.
Some Christians take a view very similar to this…when a person dies, they are either immediately in Heaven or Hell and in a real sense, separated from us…and it then becomes idolatry to pray for them…or to converse in our prayers with them. It is not a reasonable thing to do.
But within the ancient tradition of the Church…a tradition we keep alive to this day…we acknowledge and celebrate the true reality in which our loved ones…the saints…are still with us and we with them in realms spiritual through the body of Christ and the reality of the Church, both in this world and in the next…
We are together as we await the return of Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead and to make all things new…to complete and make final the kingdom of God.
And so today we celebrate the Church…that society that breaks the bounds of our physical reality…that exists in this world and in the world to come…that joins us to God through Jesus Christ.
So today, as I said earlier, we celebrate the saints…the saints who have attained the beatific vision of God…who have attained true and lasting happiness.
It is fitting then, that we read that portion Jesus’ sermon called the Beatitudes. In Luke’s version of this sermon, there are four blessings…and four woes.
So, to attain this beatific vision, we are to work towards living fully into the blessings and fully avoiding living into the woes.
It is in this sermon of Jesus that we see what we must work toward to attain true happiness and this vision of God.
And it is very striking and very different from what the world claims as happiness. I was doing a bit of prayerful contemplation the other day on this Beatitudes and wondering what it would look like to come up with a list of worldly beatitudes from advertizments and television programs.
So here is my list:
1. Blessed are those who hoard money and spend it on selfish things…for money buys happiness and the heart’s desire.
2. Blessed are the beautiful and provocatively dressed. For physical looks and sexual appeal are the highest form of being.
3. Blessed are those who can separate themselves from the impoverished parts of the world…for they will not have to deal with anything that makes them uncomfortable.
4. Blessed are those who can avoid pain and suffering…for happiness is not having to deal with sickness or sadness or suffering.
Again, that is from advertisements…I commend this to you and ask you to look around the world and see for yourself…anyway, compare my list to Jesus’ list:
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! (Luke 6.20-22)
Jesus’ idea of happiness comes from a life lived completely for God and completely for the greater good of others…and it is in direct contridiction to my list.
If you give your life completely to God…if you forgo selfishness and really and truly love and care for others…really and truly are obedient to God…you will attain eternal happiness…
But we are told and shown that the eternal happiness of the beatific vision looks a little different to the world…that in the world, if you live into this vision, you will suffer by the standards of the world…but you will know peace…and you will see God.
This morning, in just a moment, we will baptize Ann Claire Brewer into Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. She will be baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection…she will be made a new creation in Jesus Christ.
This morning Claire will join the eternal society of Jesus Christ. The society that includes the living and the dead…the society that has among its members the great saints of God.
This morning, Claire will be giving a new calling…this Beatific vision…this vision for a happy and blessed life…this vision that will one day, God willing, allow her to see God face to Face…will allow her and us all to live within the society…the kingdom of God for ever and ever.
So, during this Hallow’s tide, let us pray for and remember the faithful who have died…let us ask the prayers of the Saints…and let us above all rejoice in the Goodness and mercy of God found in his Church…in His saints…and in us, His faithful.