Today is a day when we remember all of the saints, those on earth striving and working towards the Kingdom and those already there who are praising God and praying for us to come and join them.
This week’s readings are a reminder that we have all been called to be saints through baptism. Indeed, in many of St Paul’s letters which can be found in scriptures he addresses the faithful as saints.
In our first reading from the book of the Apocalypse; also known as the book of Revelation; we are given an indication of the vastness of those who are or who will become saints. We hear about the seal on the foreheads of the servants of God. This seal for us reminds us of our baptism when we were given the seal of the Holy Spirit, but for the early Jewish readers it would have reminded them of the passage from Ezekiel (9:4-6) where executioners passed through the city and struck down those who did not have the mark (or seal) of a cross on their forehead. Those marked with the seal of the cross had been those who were faithful to God’s teaching. The number of those sealed is thought, by scholars, to be symbolic and was chosen as twelve (as in tribes of Israel) squared times 1000 to indicate a vast number. This 144,000 represent those faithful still on earth at the end of the world. The huge number too many to count represent the faithful who have already reached the end of their life before the end of the world.
The significance of the palm tree branches is reminiscent of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, then the people cried out Hosanna meaning ‘Save us’, now they rejoice crying out ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’1
Our second reading again reminds us of our baptism, and that through it we have become adopted children of God. However, St John reminds us that this is not the end as we have this privilege here and now and that by being faithful and Christ like we have the promise and hope of so much more than being merely children of God. By being pure and faithful we can be like Jesus and see him as he really is.
The magnificent invitation in the Gospel acclamation to ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened’, in a world where people’s value is often seen in what they do rather than on them as individuals and where people are in fear of losing their jobs many nowadays feel obliged to work longer hours. Others are just overwhelmed by everything that is going on and struggle with everyday life. Jesus invites everyone to come to him to find rest, give Jesus our burdens and free us from the slavery of sin.
I know that at the times when I feel overburdened, I often forget to pray, I try to do things by myself, and then wonder why I still struggle. These are the times when I need to remember to pause, try and find some quiet time and remember the message from the Beatitudes which are recalled by St Matthew in the Gospel we hear this week. Here, Jesus gives us an insight into the rewards available for those who are faithful, with ‘challenging and humbling dispositions which express what being caught up in the life and love of God looks like here and now.’2 The focus here is not on present fulfilment; which dominates our secular society; but on the future promised which will be available once the kingdom of God has been fully revealed.
At a time when large parts of our country and it seems most of our neighbouring countries are being put under further restrictions because of Covid, we need to remember these readings which point to our future. For us as Catholics the message at the end of the passage used from St John’s letter is shouting loud and clear at this time of pandemic ‘everyone who entertains this hope (of eternal life) must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.’
The way we as Catholics do this is to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; if we truly fear God’s judgement; at a time of pandemic there should be queues outside every Confessional (with appropriate social distancing). We should all be knocking on that door and yet as a Sacrament it is under used. We all need to remember that this is another opportunity to receive grace from God and experience His loving mercy. The Church says
In the sacrament of penance the Father receives the repentant son who comes back to him, Christ places the lost sheep on his shoulders and brings it back to the sheepfold, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies this temple of God again or lives more fully within it. This is finally expressed in a renewed and more fervent sharing of the Lord’s table, and there is great joy at the banquet of God’s Church over the son who has returned from afar.3
Our world can be a place of terror and tragedy as borne out by events in the past week in Nigeria, in Nice, the English Channel and off the coast of Senegal. Today’s feast and the words from scripture give us hope that in God’s Kingdom there will be comfort for those who have mourned, satisfaction for those who have hungered and thirsted for what is right and mercy for those who have shown mercy.
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Deceased family members, parishioners and friends and especially those who have no one to pray for them.
- Those who are struggling to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- All refugees; that they find a place of safety.
- Victims of religious persecution, especially those who died in the tragic events at Notre Dame church in Nice.
- Those looking for work.
- Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers and all other keyworkers as the Coronavirus seems to be spreading further again.
- All the saints in heaven and on earth who have inspired us in our faith.
Deacon Tony Darroch, 30th October 2020.
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1 Marcus Maxwell, Revelation, The people’s Bible Commentary, (The Bible Reading Fellowship, Oxford, 1997)74-79.
2 Robert Draper, Pastoral Review Vol 16 Issue 4 – Breaking the Word, (The Tablet Publishing Company, Twickenham, 2020) 80.
3 ———————-The Rite of Penance, (Mayhew-McCrimmon, Great Wakering, 1976)13.