The Solemnity of All Saints at St Mark the Evangelist Church in Norman, OK
November 1, 2002
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14 + 1 John 3:1-3 + Matthew 5:1-12
It is Matthew who speaks to us today with his unique vision of the Kingdom of God shaped by the adversity his church experiences historically. Later, when another generation has passed and a wider experience of the community’s life allows, there is different focus to the words of Jesus we proclaim today. It even changes location in Luke. The mountain is leveled, and the prophetic parallel with Moses is no longer important in the Lukan vision of life for the citizens of the Kingdom and those who would be one with Christ Jesus.
The location from which these words of Jesus were spoken is the least of the differences however. Matthew’s additions and shift in emphasis says far more. Blest are you poor, the reign of God is yours, says Luke. Blessed are the poor in spirit, says Matthew. Blessed are you who hunger, you shall be filled, says Luke. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, says Matthew. A shift from the passive to the active is found in Matthew. He urges activism. Hunger and thirst become verbs. Matthew speaks of action: Don’t just be hungry – thirst for it – go after it, seek it! There is an ethical side of Matthew’s proclamation of these words of Jesus that urges the Blessed into action for the sake of the Kingdom of God. For these blessed, the kingdom of God is not just something they inherit because they are there and identified by the one who passes on the reward. Being blessed is a sign of God-given status not an affirmation of character. The Blessed for Matthew are not simply those who are hungry and wait without complaint; but rather they are the ones who, in a sense, chose to fast and discipline themselves for the sake of bringing justice for those who have no choice but be hungry.
This is what we call to mind on All Saints day; not just those who have been found blessed by reason of their place in time and the conditions of their lives, but those who take action for the sake of others, those who hunger, thirst, mourn, show mercy and make peace. This too is holiness, and for those have choices in life like you and me, the call to holiness is a call to action and service. If persecution leads one to reward, our persecution will have to come from what we have done not from the color of ethnic origins, economic condition, sexuality, and nationality. We will have to be persecuted for what we have done. We are not going to ride or slide into the Kingdom of God because of our helplessness. We will have to work our way there, and Matthew gives us the tools and points the way.