By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”— Matthew 5:4
All Saints’ Day
November 1 and November 2 are designated as All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, respectively. Roman Catholic traditions try to differentiate the two occasions saying that November 1 is supposedly a celebration purposely intended only for the church’s canonized saints, while November 2 is supposedly for all. But in practice, people do not actually recognize such distinctions.
November 1 for them is for all, canonized saints or not. In fact, people claim that their dead loved ones are also “saints” from their own point of view, even if they do not meet the standards of church canons. In this sense, people somehow democratize the meaning of sainthood.
In any case, November 1 is meant to be a commemoration of our communion with our spiritual ancestors throughout the centuries, celebrating our unity with the saints throughout the ages and also with our loved ones who have gone ahead of us. It is a communion between the living and the dead as well as social bonding the living, between and among relatives and friends.
In the Philippine context, All Saints’ Day is a festival of sorts, people bringing in food, drinks, musical instruments and others inside the cemetery until in recent years authorities started to regulate these things. However, authorities could not completely control the people’s festive mood even in the midst of sorrow and bereavement.
The Beatitudes as God’s presence
Now, let us take the beatitudes for our reflections (cf. Mt. 5:1-12). Our Biblical text is one of the beatitudes Jesus taught to his would-be disciples. It says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted!” (Mt. 5:4). Today’s English Version says, “Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!”
The beatitudes are God’s blessings. Blessings would mean God’s presence and favour. The beatitudes tell us where God’s presence and favour can be found. They point to us where we could experience God at work among people.
Through the beatitudes Jesus Christ our Lord is saying to us that God’s blessings, God’s presence and favour can be found not among the rich and the powerful and comfortable, not even among the religious and the pious. Rather God is present, first of all, among the “poor in spirit” because poverty and destitution have dampened their spirits and hope for a better life. Moreover, God is present among “those who mourn,” because their loved ones are victims of extra-judicial as well as political killings, and of natural as well as man-made calamities. Furthermore, God is present among “those who are meek,” because they have been rendered powerless and voiceless by the machinations of the powers-that-be. And finally, God is present among “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” because their loved ones are victims of injustices.
Interestingly, Jesus Christ our Lord is also saying that God is at work with those who are merciful, those who have purity of heart, those who work for peace, and those who suffer persecutions for the cause of justice. In other words, God is at work with those who commit everything, even their own lives, to the cause of mercy, justice and peace.
The Beatitudes as a call
The Beatitudes are meant not only for the disciples to learn and to understand where God is present and at work, but also for them to respond to the call. The beatitudes are a call for the disciples of old and for us today to be merciful, to be pure in heart, and to work for justice and peace.
But the most important question that the beatitudes are posing for the disciples and for us today to answer would be: Are we willing to be present where God is present? Are we willing to work where God is at work? Are we willing to do what God is doing among those who mourn, among those who are the poor in spirit, among those who are meek, among those who hunger and thirst for righteousness or justice?
The celebration of All Saints’ Day will not be complete without remembering deep in our hearts those who gave their lives to bring comfort to those who mourn, to give hope to those who are poor in spirit, to give a voice to those who are meek, and to obtain justice for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Perhaps, they could not pass the standards of church canons to be declared as saints, but definitely in the eyes of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord, they are the true saints of our time. # nordis.net