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If We Only Knew

Solemnity of All Saints

First Reading: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 24:1BC-2, 3-4AB, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12A

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.”

NAB

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A few weeks ago I was faced with the possibility of a really challenging health issue. Praise be to God, most of my fears of what it could be have since vanished. But in those days of trips to urgent care and extensive testing, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified.

As I was pushed into the MRI machine one sunny late summer morning I took some slow, deep breaths as I forced my logical, Type-A self to think about how I could get through the next hour. I remember thinking about all of the people in the world who don’t even have access to the medical advancements that my doctors could readily employ, and I said a prayer of gratitude. I prayed for my deceased dad’s intercession and for the Saints’ intercession, especially those who are patrons or patronesses of neurological disorders. Then I thought of my nieces and nephew and God-babies and felt this immense sadness as I pondered what their reality would be if I simply ceased to be in their lives. That’s when the tears came—slowly, silently, trickling down my temples. It’s the only kind of crying allowed in an MRI because you have to hold very, very still! Even now as I write this, the tears come, as I re-live the myriad of emotions from that day.

Today’s readings from Revelation and the Gospel of Matthew, though seemingly unconnected, are actually beautifully intertwined. The Book of Revelation was believed to be written during a time of unimaginable persecution of the early Church. Its message, though full of intricate and at times confusing symbolism, is clear:

Stand strong.

Do not be afraid.

There are those who have gone before us, through the times of great distress, and have come out on the other side at the foot of the throne of grace and peace and mercy and Divine Love. Similarly, our Lord’s words in Matthew 5 remind us that when we are persecuted, when we mourn, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness with seemingly no avail, we are actually at the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now is hard, yes, but our reward will be great in Heaven indeed.

Today is the Solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation, which a priest friend once told me should really be called a “Holy Day of Opportunity.” If you don’t know where you can find a local Mass, check out this site. Come to Mass today and think of the burdens you carry, large and small. Take the opportunity to cast them into the arms of those Saints in Heaven who pray for you and with you to Jesus with great earnestness, love, and devotion.

Karen Schultz is a Birth Doula who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. You can find out more about her here.

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