November 05, 2023 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Rev. David Justin Lynch
Revelation 7:2-4;9-14 | Matthew 5:1-12a
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A lamentable characteristic of contemporary churches is to conflate, or should I say, confuse, All Saints Day with All Souls Day. Contemporary clergy focus on those conflated days by memorializing the loved ones of the congregation, including their pets. That approach serves a valid pastoral function. We have, in fact, done that here. However, this year on All Saints Day, we depart from this usual All Saints Day theme by celebrating the beginning of life’s journey to God rather than the end of it. Today, we celebrate five baptisms. All Saints Day, is, in fact, a traditional day for baptisms. I thank the Belman family for being baptized today to enable us to give life to that tradition.
In baptism, you will die to sin and rise in Christ. You will be born again as a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven. Your baptism begins your journey to a destination. That destination is to be with God in heaven. Baptism, therefore, has an eschatological and soteriological aspect to it.
“Eschatological” and “soteriological” are not words we hear every day. So, what do those words mean?
“Eschatological” means having to do with the ultimate end of time. “Soteriology” is closely related. It has to do with salvation. People often think of salvation in terms of what happens to your soul if you die. The truth is, we really don’t know, but we do know that we want to be with God.
In baptism, you will become a part of the Body of Christ. That is, you will become a part of the Church. What that should mean for you is that you will be here at Saint Cecilia’s every Sunday for Mass to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus and become part of our ministry.
In baptism, God will adopt you as God’s child. When one adopts a child, one chooses to become a parent. When we are baptized, God chooses us as God’s children. Parents have expectations of their children. As God’s child, God has at least three expectations of us.
First, we become prophets. That is, we share the word of God with others and call out evil, just like the biblical prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and others. They listened to God and proclaimed it to the people around them. God did not stop speaking long ago. God still speaks to all of us today, if only we take the time to spend an hour listening to God.
Second, we become priests. Yes, priests, with a small “p.” When we are baptized, Jesus, the Great High Priests, ordains us to the royal priesthood of all believers. The essence of priesthood is to be a gateway to God for others through yourself. You don’t need the church to ordain you to do that. It’s something everyone can do. Jesus invites us to seek God through our relationships with other people. Jesus wants us to share God with one another.
Third, we become kings and queens. That is, we all become leaders of other people. A leader is someone who sets goals and represents a set of values. You can do that even if you don’t have a formal leadership position. Jesus calls you to lead others by example in the ways set out in the Matthean Beatitudes which comprise today’s Gospel.
The Beatitudes show us what salvation looks like in today’s world because they describe the characteristics of a happy life. They reflect the values of the Kingdom of God. They tell us that salvation in this world involves humility, meekness, peacemaking, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and a pure heart. These qualities will lead to a deeper relationship with God and a sense of spiritual fulfillment.
The Beatitudes are a roadmap for our journey to God. They guide us in cultivating the attitudes and virtues that align with the Kingdom of God. By embodying these qualities, Christians can draw closer to God.
The Beatitudes describe God as our destination. They point to God as the ultimate source of blessing and happiness. Those who live in accordance with the Beatitude principles will experience a close relationship with God.
The Beatitudes describe the attitudes that should characterize the followers of Jesus. Baptism signifies a commitment to follow Christ and live according to His teachings. The Beatitudes frame how baptized Christians are expected to live their lives. Personally speaking, I find the Beatitudes more helpful in everyday life than the Ten Commandments.
The term “blessed” or “happy” in each Beatitude signifies spiritual well-being and contentment transcending external circumstances. Each Beatitude carries a meaning and a promise.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” suggests that those who recognize their spiritual poverty are blessed. Those who acknowledge their spiritual need will inherit a deep, meaningful relationship with God.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” speaks to those who mourn their own sins, the world’s brokenness, and the suffering of others, to encourage compassion and empathy. Those who mourn are promised comfort, which can be understood as God’s presence and the hope of restoration.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” emphasizes a non-aggressive and patient approach to life. If you live that way, you will ultimately find fulfillment and blessing in God’s plan for creation.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” focuses on the desire for righteousness, justice, and moral integrity, calling for a passionate pursuit of what is right and just. Those involved in that will be rewarded.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” means those showing compassion, forgiveness, and kindness toward others, even when they don’t deserve it will receive mercy in return, reflecting that God’s grace and forgiveness extend to those who extend it to others.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” signifies moral and spiritual integrity, sincerity, and an undivided devotion to God giving us the privilege of a close and intimate relationship with God’s divine presence.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” calls us to actively seek reconciliation, harmony, and peace in relationships and situations to make us children of God, highlighting the idea that they reflect a God of peace.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” acknowledges that living for righteousness and justice can lead to persecution, but those who persevere will find that commitment to God’s values is ultimately rewarded.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” This acknowledges that followers of Jesus may face persecution for commitment to His teachings, but that God ultimately will take care of them.
What the Beatitudes are saying is that Christianity is a behavior religion. Christianity is an attitude towards life and towards the other people we encounter on our journey to God. The Beatitudes set high standards for us, much higher standards than the Ten Commandments. But remember always that God is always there to forgive us if we miss the mark. God is one hundred percent pure love, full of goodness and mercy. AMEN.