Chapter Talk – All Saints – November 1, 2020
“The eyes of the saint make all beauty holy and the hands of the saint consecrate everything they touch to the glory of God, and the saint is never offended by anything and judges no one’s sin” (New Seeds of Contemplation, p.24). These words of Thomas Merton are packed with meaning. First he says the ‘eyes of a saint make all beauty holy’….This vision or seeing is possible for everyone…the eyes that behold beauty connect the beauty with holiness…what is seen is beautiful and it is holy, imbued with Divine life….Then the ‘hands of the saint consecrate everything they touch,’ treating everyone and everything as holy, as gift of God. And further, the saint judge’s no one’s sin which says something about her heart of compassion. Imagine using our eyes and our hands in this way: our eyes beholding all beauty as holy and our hands consecrating everything we touch, consecrating with the life of God working through us…And the most difficult: not harshly judging the other but ready to extend a look, a hand of mercy.
And from Merton again: “The saints know the mercy of God. They know that their own mission on earth is to bring that mercy to all people” (p.25). Clearly, there is no saint, no true follower of Jesus who has not experienced the mercy of God. Our personal experience of God’s mercy enables us to be mid-wives of this same mercy to others. It is a beautiful exchange: of mercy received and mercy offered to the other. This is what it means to be part of one body of Christ: forgiven and forgiving, suffering for love, done together. Through Merton’s words we have a glimpse of WHO those unnamed and unknown saints are that we are celebrating today…We ourselves are also given a glimpse of what it means to be called to a way of holiness. Keep in mind this not about perfection!
The gospel for All Saints is the ‘Beatitudes’ (Mt 5:1-12). The ‘Beatitudes’ are, as Pope Francis calls them, “Jesus’ roadmap”, which he says is the “map of Christian life” (Angelus, November 1, 2017). A roadmap, a paradigmatic way of how we are to walk, a guide of how we are to live. To set our feet and our hearts upon this roadmap: what does this look like? In simple and straightforward words Pope Francis gives this description: “Those who are with Jesus are blessed; they are happy. Happiness is not in having something or in becoming someone, no. True happiness is being with the Lord and living for love….We must go forth, believing in this. So, the ingredients for a happy life are called Beatitudes: blessed are the simple, the humble who make room for God, who are able to weep for others and for their own mistakes, who remain meek, fight for justice, are merciful to all, safeguard purity of heart, always work for peace and abide in joy, do not hate and, even when suffering, respond to evil with good”. So this the roadmap for our pilgrimage, and we are not alone in being helped along the way, for we have those who have gone before us.
What is the ‘communion of saints’? Indeed, it is all those women and men who have gone before us, those saints who lived for love, who walked the roadmap of the ‘Beatitudes’ with their lives…so many unknown ones…and some who we each would personally include, who were known to us and whose lives were led and guided by the ‘Beatitudes’, whose eyes and hands consecrated all they did with mercy. We join our lives with them…we are united with them as we live, as we strive to live what they did, not perfectly but ready to be converted daily, and the energy that the conversion process frees up within us becomes the generative ground out of which we serve and love. The saints forming this “golden chain, in which each saint is a separate link, united to the next by faith and works and love”. What a beautiful image from St. Symeon the New Theologian. And this golden chain of witnesses cannot be broken…their lives are present right now…They have gone before us and are with us as we walk the roadmap of the ‘Beatitudes’. We are part of the ‘communion of saints’ as our hearts are converted slowly into the heart of God’s unconditional love and mercy.