Sunday, November 1st, 2020, Pentecost XXII, All Saints Sunday & the Beatitudes During Covid-19
Revelation 7:9-17, Psalm 34:1-10,22, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12
As we come to the end of the Church year we celebrate this great feast of All Saints Day, to remember and give thanks to the communion of saints.
A child was once asked for a definition of a saint. She said, “A stained glass window!” Asked why, she explained, “The different colours let in the light and every saint is a different colour of God.” Every one of our saints coloured God in a new way in his or her corner of the globe. They were not perfect beings, but they lived their lives as best they could within the vision and spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (adapted from Sacred Space, Ministry of the Irish Jesuits)
Jesus showed us his vision in the Beatitudes, his introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.
Pastor Rick Morley describes this vision in a sermon written several years ago: “He begins this inaugural speech, this coming-out party, with a flood of blessings. He blesses the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for doing the right thing, and those who are reviled and persecuted on his account.” (Litany for the Citizens of Heaven – A Reflection on Matthew 5:1-12, October 24, 2011, rickmorley.com)
Jesus lived every one of the “blesseds.” He was merciful, pure in heart, single-minded, a peacemaker. All the other “blesseds”found space in his life. Jesus knew each of the Beatitudes from the inside out. He knew just where the blessing and presence of God may be found, that a life of integrity and honesty is indeed a blessed life.
If the Beatitudes can speak to us in any age, they can speak to us now in the midst of COVID-19, a worldwide pandemic that has disrupted the normal cadence of life. Our lives have been changed in ways that I don’t think any of us ever imagined. Our “normal” came to an end this past spring.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” For many of us, our spirits are, indeed, somewhat distressed, our inner strength depleted by the sheer effort of dealing with the situation. Every TV news broadcast andnewspaper article seem to emphasize the dire situation, now worsening in a second wave of COVID-19, bringing fresh fears, for ourselves, for our loved ones, our country, our world.
“Blessed are those who mourn.” We mourn the loss of “normal,” being able to leave our homes and interact and shop without sanitizing our hands, wearing masks, paying for our items with a plexiglass screen separating us from the cashier, a different kind of face-to-face interaction; not being able to see family and friends who are now outside our “social bubble,” wondering when we will be able to celebrate holidays and gatherings again. Granted, these are minor signs of mourning; may God keep us from deeper losses.
“Blessed are the meek.” Never more so have we become aware of our vulnerable selves: no longer feeling in control of our lives, most of us following government guidelines, hoping to slow the spread of the virus. At the grocery store, no more stocking up of on-sale items: obeying the two-item limit at No Frills, standing in lines waiting for checkout: we are patient saints.
“Blessed are those who hunger for thirst and righteousness,” those who call into account our government response.
“Blessed are the merciful,” those on the front lines, our essential workers, our healthcare professionals, those who interact with people less fortunate than ourselves, treating them with respect and dignity.
“Blessed are the pure in heart,” the ones who bring joy amid sorrow, the children who laugh and the adults who cry; blessed are our pets who give us unconditional love and who keep us company during these challenging times.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” who offer words of comfort and prayer.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” for the sick and the poor, the uninsured and the homeless and the incarcerated who have died or will die from the virus and from our systems of poverty and healthcare, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Eventually, a vaccine will be discovered and distributed world-wide, the virus will be eradicated, and we will get our old lives back, hopefully close to once-normal, perhaps not as quickly as we would like. And let us not forget that our temporary situation is a permanent reality in the poorer countries of the world. The same insecurities we are now experiencing — over our health, jobs, access to healthcare and well-stocked grocery stores — are some people’s reality, all the time.
And if we go back to the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” we realize that we are nothing without God who provides for our health, even life itself. The coronavirus pandemic is giving us a taste of that.
Blessed are we, the followers of Jesus, who are tired, stressed out, anxious, maybe lonely, just like many of the saints who came before us.As imperfect and as broken as some of the saints were, they still had faith which carried them through. Now, more than ever, we need God in our lives, to serve and live the Beatitudes during this time of COVID-19.
“Rejoice and be glad, for [our] reward is great in heaven.”
The Gathering of the Community
Video of Last Week’s Service
(Apologies it’s off-level.)