This Sunday we will gather to celebrate the feast of All Saints – the feast of simple, ordinary folks. We do not celebrate titles or job descriptions or even “successes.” What we celebrate is a disposition of heart – a heart characteristic of those who come to know they are God’s children and who struggle to live as God’s children now, trusting in God’s fidelity for the future. A 14th century mystic wrote, “Our God longs for us. And in that manner of longing and waiting, God wants us to do the same. That desire is the raw material of holiness.
For many of us, when we think about saints, we are totally unrealistic in our expectations. We think in terms of all around moral perfection, a person who may be tempted no doubt on some grand heroic scale, but who is unmoved by the petty kinds of concerns that so often do us in. But upon close examination, we soon find we miss the truth. If we reflect over the lives of those who have been deemed as saintly, they too, like us, were touchy, quarrelsome – wanting the approval of others. In reality, saints are ordinary people who have an uncommon talent for doing ordinary things extra-ordinarily well. Saints come in all colors, shapes and sizes – they speak different languages, but their common blend is that they have been touched by that desire for God.
Each of us has had a taste of that desire. Sometimes we confuse that desire with something else. Sometimes our response to the desire may be misguided, but the desire is there. At times, it can be so strong that we mistakenly attempt to fill it by mastering the “proper way” or engaging in frantic zealous activities. Our responsibility to God often replaces God. At other times, we may try to escape the longing of the desire by becoming obsessed with something less than God – a promising career, a prized possession, a coveted relationship. Yet the desire remains, because it is the God-life in us.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that we find in the fifth chapter of Matthew invites us to basic attitudes of being before God and one another in our desire, living in a way that honors that desire. The be-attitudes ground us in the here-and-now reality of our lives, because it is in this daily reality that God is most truly alive for us.
In each circumstance of our lives, in all our relationships, in pain, in glory, God has gone before us and waits for us.
In each circumstance of our lives, in all our relationships, in pain, in glory, God has gone before us and waits for us. “Come here with me, now. I am not only in that past moment when life was more certain, or in that future time when you will have yourself together, when you and the world will be at peace. I am here, now. I am in your anxiety about your child, in the challenge of that work situation, in the pain of your diminishment as you age, in the misunderstanding with that person you love. I am here for you. Keep your eyes on me. Keep your heart with me. Trust me in the now.”
This is the attitude Thomas Merton referred to when he wrote, “You do not need to know what is happening or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” As you and I grow in this attitude, this desire – we become the single-hearted persons whom Jesus calls “blessed.” This single-heartedness affects our vision of the world. We see things with God’s eyes, and we move out of ourselves toward others. We are willing to risk.
God’s hunger and thirst for holiness and justice become ours; at times we suffer the persecution of isolation as we work for peace and justice. God’s mercy and compassion are released through us; we take on the pain of those we seek to console. We bring God’s peace to bear in our world; we know the sword of division in our hearts because we cannot be content with the false peace of the status quo.
In all of this we come to know our limitation, our poverty. We cannot do what we would want to do. Our desire is not enough. We are dependent on God for all, especially for our holiness. So we turn to God with our hearts, with our lives, with our prayers: “Lord, have mercy. Give us this day what we need to be just, to be compassionate, to be peace-bearing. Give us this day the gift of yourself. Give us this day faithfulness to our desire.”
May our attitude be a desire for God. May we become the single-hearted persons whom Jesus calls “blessed.”
See you Sunday, Rick