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Readings for the Celebration of All Saints


1. Revelation 7, 2-4 and 9-14

  • Once again we hear a massive shout of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue.  Read that, my Jehovah’s Witnesses neighbors!  I need a voice prepared to speak with strength, not one that needs to be amplified by a sound system, but one that reaches everyone listening.
  • Or let me try something else.  We have seen announcers standing in the midst of excited shouting people during a convention or a sports event.  I have to raise my own voice so that the listening audience can hear me.  Now that’s where I belong, in the midst of the action!  As we sing, ‘O Lord, I want to be in that number.’ 
  • Wearing white robes and holding palm branches.  Revelation is the most visual part of the Bible.  I owe it to my listeners to speak as if I can see the robes and the palms. 
  • They have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  I look for a bit of pride in the voice of the elder, and admiration in my own heart for those who have persevered.  Let me remember some whom I know personally or whose story I have heard.
  • The reading closes with a hymn about the saints – or is it?  I hear what God is doing for the saints: sheltering, shepherding, leading, wiping tears away.  When we stand and worship as we do today we come into God’s presence.
  • Climax: At the very end of the passage.  God will wipe away every tear.
  • The message for our assembly: Why do churches breed so many control freaks?  Who on earth can guide God’s intentions? 
  • I will challenge myself: To keep from reciting a bunch of ancient words, and to make the vision come alive.

 2. I John 3, 1-3

  • Every word in the apostle’s letter lives and breathes the intimacy of God with us.  He compares it to the relationships in a family.  God is Father and we are the children of God. 
  • We may not hear the word ‘Jesus’ in this brief passage, but he is the primordial child, the beloved, who has brought us together.  We do not hear now of reconciliation, as we do in Paul’s letters, but rather about the realization of something that is always true.  Yet so we are.  That is what we celebrate most of all at Easter.
  • Examples of the intimacy between God and ourselves abound throughout the letter.  In this brief passage I hear the words Beloved, love bestowed on us, children of God, know him, be like him. 
  • What we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We are getting into resurrection ideas now, and the apostle dismisses all the creative ways we might imagine that existence.  We must keep our eyes of the loving God.  We shall be like him.
  • The reading is short, and I will make use of pauses and changes of tone for effect.  The reading (and its rendering into English) are also spoken plainly and directly, and I should present them plainly and directly.
  • Climax: Yet so we are.  So simply put, so conclusive.  Is there any greater truth?
  • The message for our assembly: Here is the witness to the universal call to holiness: We shall be like him.  No more disguises, no more poses, just the unvarnished truth, the way it is.
  • I will challenge myself: To convince the assembly with the tender way I speak the words that witness to God’s family.

Gospel. Matthew 5, 1-12
  • Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Ah, for the umpteenth time, the Beatitudes!  Let me not think that I will succeed in making it sound completely new and inspiring to my assembly.  They think they know it, as I think I know it.  Will I rehearse any less for that reason? 
  • He began to teach them.  Who are today’s most admired men and women?  Would they be the powerful, the kingmakers, those with a steely disposition, with the ability to destine their subordinates to good fortune, or misery and death?  Let me compare Jesus with the motivational speakers who fill auditoriums.  They tell us we are good and honest and only need to set goals for ourselves.  And Jesus?
  • I will avoid saying Blesséd at all costs.  “Fortunate,” “Lucky,” even “Blest” are closer to the reality intended by the evangelist.  Let me speak instead “Blest.”
  • I must not sugarcoat the life to which we are called: poor in spirit, those who mourn, hunger and thirst, peacemakers, persecuted, insulted.  Nor should I dramatize it.  I only need to tell it as it is, remembering that Jesus followed this path and brought countless men and women along with him.  Will someone in our midst be moved to study this way more closely and adopt it for a lifetime?
  • What do they inherit?  Kingdom of heaven, the earth, satisfaction, mercy, the sight of God, the status of children.  Once again, we are in touch with God’s standards.  No room here for “happiness,” “self-fulfillment,” “achievement.”
  • Central point: There is a complete reversal of human standards going on here.
  • Message for our assembly: Do we hear and accept this?  Do we really want this?  Or do we shunt the message aside and merely celebrate the messenger?
  • I will challenge myself: To avoid dramatics.  Just let my listeners hear the drum beat of revolution.  Let me avoid a sing-song pattern.  I must act as if I’ve been down this road, even for a little way.  And, for God’s sake, let me believe what I am saying.

 

From Word to Eucharist: We are many, not a few.  God’s gifts are bounteous.  But each one of us is precious, with an inspiring story of faith.  Let us not undertake such an arduous journey alone, but find strength in that procession that marches in Jesus’ name.

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