In this passage, commonly known as the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us what it means to be blessed. He does not mention winning the lottery, being elected to high office, or buying a new model car each year. Blessing comes to those who are poor, humble, merciful, hungry, working for peace, and accepting persecution. So who wants to sign up? Jesus speaks these words to the disciples apart from the crowds with whom he is popular and by whom they, by association, might be respected. Jesus seems to be asking his followers, “Do you really want to be a disciple? Then here is what to expect!”
In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul reminds his readers that they are “called to be saints”—those who strive to follow the teaching of Jesus and to live like him. The Greek word hagios refers to those who are sanctified or set apart by or for God. Saints look like ordinary people; they are known not by holy clothes or a halo but by their faithfulness to the Christian gospel. Over the course of time, the Roman Catholic Church begins to name persons of exceptional holiness as “saints.” November 1 was established as All Saints’ Day, when all Christians come together to remember those who have gone before us on the journey.
Most of us can recall saint-like people we have known: persons of patience, love, and service who were also great listeners and encouragers. On All Saints’ Day, we can include them in our thanksgiving. Their memories remind us that we are “called to be saints” each day. Even when we stumble, maybe even fall, the grace of God is always there to lift us up.
Loving God, thank you for the cloud of witnesses who encourage and strengthen us to follow Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen.
The book of Joshua tells the story of the return of the Israelites to the land promised to Abraham. They have escaped captivity in Egypt by a miraculous crossing, and now they enter the land in a similar way. Psalm 107 speaks of God gathering the people from distant lands and bringing them out of the desert into a land of plenty. It is a poetic reflection on the experience of the Israelites. Paul often experiences resistance from various sources. In a defense of his integrity, he points to his actions as proof of his virtue. Jesus reminds us that we can do the right thing for the wrong reasons. If we act in order to draw attention to ourselves, then even good deeds lose their luster in God’s eyes.
Read Joshua 3:7-17. When have you had to trust leaders for the good of your community?
Read Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37. Recall difficult times in your faith journey. How did you experience God’s steadfast love through these times?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13. What daily practices give you insight into God’s Word? How do you encourage others in their life of faith?
Read Matthew 23:1-12. Do your leaders live what they preach? If you are a leader, how do you strive to live the gospel?
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