It was by faith our ancestors received approval. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitteness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal. You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears. Let mutual love continue.
When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing. (R./)
Then they said among the nations,
The Lord has done great things for them.
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed. (R./)
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing. (R./)
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves. (R./)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people 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 in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Today we honour the faithful people who have gone before us, like as a great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us, We are urged by their example to run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Even more important than the memory of dead ancestors, we look to Jesus the pioneer of our faith, as the inspiration for our daily behaviour.
In the early years after Ireland gained independence from British rule, Irish schoolchildren were taught that ancient Ireland was “an Island of Saints and Scholars.” While we could hardly claim that title for our nation today, we can still look back with pride on many heroic Irish Christians of times past. The Feast of All the Saints of Ireland was instituted in 1921, by Pope Benedict XV. Here are three points to ponder on this feast:
So far only four individual saints, Saint Malachy (1094-1148), Saint Lawrence O’Toole (1128-80) and Saint Oliver Plunkett (1625-81) and Saint Charles of Mount Argus (1821-93), have been officially canonised. Of course, we may hope for more canonisations in the future, but all the other Irish saints, such as Saints Patrick, Brigid, and Colmcille, became saints by the acclamation of the local faithful, here in Ireland.
This feast, while it includes canonised saints, has a wider scope. It includes those who had a reputation for holiness and whose canonisation process has not yet been completed, such as Blessed Thaddeus MacCarthy (1455-92), the seventeen Irish martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries, Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice (1762-1844), Blessed Columba Marmion (1858-1923) and the Servant of God Matt Talbot (1856-1925) and people like Legion of Mary envoys Edel Quinn and Alfie Lamb, whose causes have already been introduced. But it also includes those whose lives of sanctity were known only to their families, friends or members of their parish diocese or religious community.
The feast echoes the theme of “the island of saints and scholars” which was so strong in Ireland up to the middle of the twentieth century, but which might be somewhat harder to illustrate in 2014. Still, even today we can pick out points of fraternity, tolerance and concern for the disadvantaged among our fellow citizens; and signs that concern for scholarship has not perished from our sainted isle!
The Beatitudes are a stimulus to high moral idealism, given as an encouragement to us. They are not a law and lay no yoke on the disciple’s shoulders. In eight striking sentences they portray the marvellous freedom that a believer can enjoy. Jesus speaks from experience, because he lived the Beatitudes in his own life, and it is only by living them ourselves that we can discover how true they are.
Although they are not commands, they are revolutionary when compared with the beatitudes advocated by the pragmatic wisdom tradition. This calls happy the man who has a good wife, obedient children, faithful friends, who prospers in all that he does. But Jesussays that the truly blessed are not the wealthy, the socially celebrated and successful, but rather the poor, the hungry, people despised and persecuted. Who had he in mind when referring to the poor in spirit? Was it the dispossesed, or those who had money without being too attached to it, or the people who held that material things mean little and that God is our final hope for justice? In fact the vast majority of his hearers would not have been well off. He does not say that poverty is a good thing. Jesus would not regard it as just when people have to live in slums without enough to eat, and where health and life itself are very precarious.
Jesus himself did not initiate programme of social reform, or explicitly seek to redistribute wealth. “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal, but rather lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven” he said. Despite his feeding of the multitudes his main concern was not about the material goods. It was on people's attitudes to life, the human person in relation to God, that he focused his mission. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all other things will be given you as well.” There is no doubt that he empathised with the humble and those who were burdened, the marginalised who lived on the fringes of Jewish society. They will have mercy shown them and theirs will be the kingdom of heaven. They will be called children of God, and they shall see God.