The gospel reading today reminds us of the values of the Kingdom of God and what makes saints. These values are not necessarily what makes “the great ones of this world”. “Blessed are the poor, for God will not forget you.” “Blessed are the hungry, for you will be filled.” “Blessed are those who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven, for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets” These Beatitudes are telling us not to place our hope on this world because this world cannot satisfy our eternal calling. That can only be satisfied in heaven. The passage goes on to say that there are woes awaiting those who do place all their hope on the things of this world. For those who make the things of this world into idols, there can be ultimately only suffering and disappointment.

It also goes on to describe the virtues of saints: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. “ “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to anyone who begs from you, and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It is a tall order and not for the faint of heart. And no one accomplishes this without many failures. But if we were to describe the attitude and behavior of the saint in one sentence, it would be: the saint loves abundantly, the way God loves.

Who are the saints? – they are the friends of God. They are those who have come to know the ways of God and the ways of the Kingdom intimately and they are those who trust in God, whose faith takes them to the end, whose faith opens a larger world for them, the world of heaven and the Communion of the Saints. They have caught a glimpse of something that makes this world pale in comparison.

The greatest desire in our lives should be for God and heaven. If it is, we are blessed., indeed! This is simply emotional: it is rational. It is not, of course, that we are already perfect or that we are complete in the here and now. No, we are works in progress, with faults, weaknesses, sins, imperfection, temptations. But we are friends of God, sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ – and there is no better friend to have, no better brother, no more loving Master. And we are together in his community the Church, at his Altar, at his Table, children of his Font, washed and fed by his grace – there is no better place to be.

Fr. Brian Spence