The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Monday, November 25, 2013


As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday and prepare for the beginning of Advent, here are just a few of the things that I am thankful for:

n  First and foremost, 2013 is the 10th anniversary of both my spiritual reawakening and sobriety. Without that grace of God, I don’t know where I’d be—certainly not where I am.

n  My monastic vocation; God is good—and strange!

n  Family, friends, colleagues, and confreres—both past and present. It takes all kinds, I’ve learned—and continue to rediscover. A fairly decent contingent of family members is arriving later this week to spend Thanksgiving on the Hill, so I’m looking forward to that.

n  The many gifts and opportunities I’ve received or benefited from. Among these is tomorrow’s official publication by Abbey Press of my new book, Grace in the Wilderness: Reflections on God’s Sustaining Word Along Life’s Journey—a book made possible, among other things, by the grace of my vocation, the request by the Abbot a few years ago to write commentaries for the Sunday Mass readings, and this blog and its readers (many of the book’s reflections originally appeared here). Incidentally, the book has garnered at least one online review of which I’m aware (read it here.), and will be one of those featured at a book signing I’m attending at the Catholic Supply stores in St. Louis on Saturday, November 30 (read more about the event here.).

n   Many, many others. Here’s hoping that each takes the time to recognize and be grateful for all of life’s blessings, putting them at the service of one another.

One last note: because of my family visiting and the upcoming trip to St. Louis, I will not be posting again here until after the holiday weekend. Of course, you are always free to peruse what’s already here.

A Blessed Thanksgiving to all!
--Br. Francis

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The center

He is the image of the invisible God,
the first-born of all creation.

Colossians 1:15

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
King of the Universe—Year C

2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43
NOTE: Following is an excerpt of Pope Francis' homily today at St. Peter's Square in Rome, marking the occasion of this solemnity, which closes out the Church's Year of Faith and points us toward the beginning of Advent (next weekend already!). If you'd like to read the homily in its entirety, you can do so on the Vatican website.
Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.
The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the center, Christ is the center—Christ is the center of creation, Christ is the center of his people and Christ is the center of history.
The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. So the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ.
Also, Christ is the center of the people of God. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them. Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the center, do we receive our identity as a people.
Finally, Christ is the center of the history of humanity and also the center of the history of every individual. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the center, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.
Whereas all the others treat Jesus with disdain—“If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!”—the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clings to the crucified Jesus and begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43), in his kingdom. Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Today we can all think of our own history, our own journey. Each of us has his or her own history: we think of our mistakes, our sins, our good times and our bleak times. We would do well, each one of us, on this day, to think about our own personal history, to look at Jesus and to keep telling him, sincerely and quietly: “Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your kingdom! Jesus, remember me, because I want to be good, but I just don’t have the strength: I am a sinner, I am a sinner. But remember me, Jesus! You can remember me because you are at the center, you are truly in your kingdom!”
Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more, he is so generous, he always gives more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his kingdom!
-- Pope Francis

Friday, November 22, 2013

Our quest and aim

“Peace is a daily, a weekly,
a monthly process,
gradually changing opinions,
slowly eroding old barriers,
quietly building new structures.
And however undramatic
the pursuit of peace,
the pursuit must go on.”

John F. Kennedy

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Upper reaches

"Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles."

Isaiah 40:31

NOTE: One final excerpt from Jean-Pierre de Caussade's
Abandonment to Divine Providence

A holy soul is one, which, by the help of grace, has freely submitted to God's will, and all that follows this free consent is the work of God and never that of man. That is all God asks of us.

So come! Never mind weariness, illness, lack of feeling, irritability, exhaustion, the snares of the devil and of men, with all that they create of distrust, jealousy, prejudice and evil imaginings. Let us soar like an eagle above these clouds, with our eyes fixed on the sun and its rays, which are our duties. We cannot help being aware of all these evils, of course, and we cannot be indifferent to them, but let us never forget that ours is not a life governed by feelings.

We must live in those upper reaches of the spiritual life where God and his will are active in a process which is eternal and unchanging. There, he who is uncreated, immeasurable and cannot be described by human words, will keep us far removed from all the shadows and turmoil of the world. We shall feel through our senses countless disturbances, it is true, but they will disappear like the clouds in a windswept sky. God and his will are the eternal objects which captivate every faithful soul; and when the day of glory arrives, they will be our true happiness.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The healing power of weakness

"When I am weak, then I am strong."
 2 Corinthians 12:10

NOTE: Yet another wonderful excerpt from Jean-Pierre de Caussade's
Abandonment to Divine Providence

Those in whom God lives are often flung into a corner like a useless bit of broken pottery. There they lie, forsaken by everyone, but yet enjoying God's very real and active love, and knowing they have to do nothing but stay in his hands and be used as he wishes. Often they have no idea how they will be used, but he knows.

The world thinks them useless, and it seems as if they are. Yet it is quite certain that by various means and through hidden channels, they pour out spiritual help on people who are often quite unaware of it and of whom they themselves never think. For those who have surrendered themselves completely to God, all they are and do has power. Their lives are sermons. They are apostles. God gives a special force to all they say and do, even to their silence, their tranquility and their detachment, which, quite unknown to them, profoundly influences other people.

They themselves are influenced by others who, by grace, unknowingly benefit them; and, in turn, they are used to guide and support other people who have no direct connection with them. God works through them by unexpected and hidden impulses.

In this respect, they are like Jesus, who produced a secret healing power. The difference between him and them is that they are often unaware of this discharge of power and so do not cooperate with it. It is like a hidden scent which gives off its sweetness unknowingly and is quite ignorant of its strength.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Gray and Gold, John Rogers Cox, 1942, Cleveland Museum of Art

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C
 Malachi 3:19-20a; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

“Persevere, Novice Craig.” I would hear those words addressed to me from time to time during my novitiate in the monastery. Honestly, I didn’t find them very helpful. And they’re not—if by perseverance one means dogged determination, or to “grin and bear it.” The truth of the matter is that absolutely no one, under any circumstances whatsoever, can summon and sustain such perseverance, such self-will. We are, after all, only human.
Perseverance, I have come to realize, is much more than simply holding on for dear life, and sticking it out to the end. Tenacity, however strong, only goes so far. It must be underpinned by something else. To persevere, The American Heritage Dictionary (Second College Edition) states, means to “persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.” It involves believing that however arduous (or even evil!) things may be, there is purpose and meaning within them capable of being directed toward the good. Something—or someone—makes it all worth it in the end.
From a Christian perspective, this underpinning, purpose, or worthwhile aim is faith, pure and simple. And faith is not something anyone can produce, pursue, or possess on one’s one. It is a gift from God, without whom we can do nothing, and with whom all things are possible (cf. John 15:5; Mark 10:27). Faith is what enables us to persevere amid trying circumstances. Faith makes it possible for difficulties to be transformed into pathways toward the good (cf. Romans 8:28). In this way, as St. Benedict writes in his Rule for monks, “hardships and difficulties” will “lead [the novice, or Christian] to God” (58:8).
The only way to receive faith is to sincerely ask for it. “Lord, increase our faith!” the apostles asked Jesus. And receiving it means participating in the means by which God bestows it. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end, we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be ‘working through charity,’ abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church” (No. 162). Scripture, prayer, good works, and the tradition and life of the Christian community are what bestow and build our faith—therefore helping us to persevere in difficult times.
By definition, disciples of Christ will meet with difficult times, and therefore need to nourish the faith that strengthens our ability to persevere. That was true in Jesus’ time. It is true in our own time. And it has been true in every age in between. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are unsettling. Christians in this beautiful yet fallen world will not escape wars, natural disasters, hardships, disease, and especially persecution. “They will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name,” Jesus says. However, he promises the faithful follower that from an eternal perspective, it will all be worth it—that hardships and difficulties are indeed capable of leading one to God, not just in the future but today, at this very moment. For the one with faith, it all contains meaning and purpose, the capability of bringing about good.
“Not a hair on your head will be destroyed,” Jesus says. “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”
And so, as the other readings today point out, we must work quietly, mind our own business (rather than everyone else’s), and trust that “there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” amid all the trials and difficulties we find ourselves in. As the prophet Micah wrote, “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
This is faith, and with it we persevere.

Friday, November 15, 2013


NOTE: Another gem from Jean-Pierre de Caussade's
Abandonment to Divine Providence.

We are now living in a time of faith. The Holy Spirit writes no more gospels except in our hearts. All we do from moment to moment is live this new gospel of the Holy Spirit. We, if we are holy, are the paper; our sufferings and our actions are the ink. The workings of the Holy Spirit are his pen, and with it he writes a living gospel; but it will never be read until that last day when it leaves the printing press of this life.

And what a splendid book it will be -- the book the Holy Spirit is still writing! The book is on the press and never a day passes when type is not set, ink applied and pages pulled. But we remain in the light of faith; we understand nothing. We shall be able to read it only in heaven.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The eye of faith

NOTE: Another excerpt from Jean-Pierre de Caussade's
Abandonment to Divine Providence

All creatures live in the hands of God. By our senses we can see only the action of the creature, but faith sees the Creator acting in all things. Faith sees that Jesus Christ lives in everything and works through all history to the end of time, that every fraction of a second, every atom of matter, contains a fragment of his hidden life and his secret activity.

After the Resurrection, Jesus Christ took the disciples unawares by his appearances, showing himself to them as if disguised and then appearing when he had revealed himself. And it is this same Jesus, ever living and ever active, who still surprises us if our faith is not strong or clear-sighted enough. There is never a moment when God does not come forward in the guise of some suffering or some duty, and all that takes place within us, around us and through us both includes and hides his activity. Yet, because it is invisible, we are always taken by surprise and do not recognize his operation until it has passed by us.

It is faith which interprets God for us. Without its light we should not even know that God was speaking, but would hear only the confused, meaningless babble of creatures. As Moses saw the flame of fire in the bush and heard the voice of God coming from it, so faith will enable us to understand his hidden signs, so that amidst all the apparent clutter and disorder we shall see all the loveliness and perfection of divine wisdom. Faith transforms the earth into paradise. By it our hearts are raised with the joy of our nearness to heaven.

Every moment reveals God to us. Faith is our light in this life. By it we know the truth without seeing it, we are put in touch with what we cannot feel, recognize what we cannot see, and view the world stripped of all its superficialities. Faith unlocks God's treasury. It is the key to the vastness of his wisdom. It is by faith that God makes his presence plain everywhere.

Monday, November 11, 2013

No time like the present

"Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever."

Hebrews 13:8


Shortly after my spiritual reawakening (as I refer to it--in the spring of 2003), I was drawn to delve deeply not only into Scripture, but also the writings of a great number of saints and other spiritual authors (such as St. Josemaría Escrivá, St. John of the Cross, and Thomas à Kempis). This was an entirely new direction for me—something I had never felt inclined to do before. Although I’ve always been a reader, for most of my adult life up to that point, most of what I read was in the realm of current affairs or history. What’s more, I was a journalist, and spent the majority of my time each day either editing or writing news stories. So after work, I often preferred to do things other than read (which we won’t get into; let’s just say that the traditional newspaperman stereotype fit me well in many respects).

During this early stage of my spiritul reformation, one of the first authors that I developed a particular affinity for was Jean-Pierre de Caussade, whose most well-known work is Abandonment to Divine Providence (or The Sacrament of the Present Moment). De Caussade was a French Jesuit priest who lived from 1675 to 1751. This slim book of his—really a collection of letters he wrote to women religious that were gathered and published after his death—contains a wealth of wisdom accessible to anyone. Early on, it helped me to connect the dots between aspects of the inner life of the spirit and ordinary, everyday life (later solidified for me by St. Benedict’s Rule on the monastic way of life). Every moment in life, de Caussade states, is a gift or sacrament from God, one that calls us to respond with praise, gratitude, peace, joy, faith, and love to each circumstance, task, or person. In short, we must at all times abandon our own self-interest and judgments to the will of God. “If we have abandoned ourselves to God,” he says, “there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.”

This point of view, of course, fits neatly with the teachings of many of the saints and other authors mentioned above, although each expressed it in different ways. All of them, really, are simply rooted in the fertile ground of the Gospel, and are therefore merely instruments of the Holy Spirit as Divine Author.

From time to time, I am still inclined to pick up Abandonment to Divine Providence and soak up its abundant insight. In doing so, I have discovered another remarkable similarity—to that of the writings of my patron saint, Francis de Sales (1567-1622). The two, of course, were both French, were very nearly contemporaries (though not quite), and had both been educated by Jesuits. De Caussade was also a spiritual director for a community of Visitation sisters in France—the very religious order de Sales had founded earlier along with St. Jane Frances de Chantal.

Although de Sales died more than 50 years before de Caussade was born, the latter was certainly influenced by the life and writings of de Sales. Francis was a recently canonized saint when de Caussade was young, and his reputation and influence—especially in their native country of France—would have been considerable for those interested in spiritual matters. De Sales’ classic Introduction to the Devout Life was still immensely popular at the time (as it remains today). In fact, I am struck by how similar Abandonment to Divine Providence and Introduction to the Devout Life really are in many respects. The two were definitely on the same spiritual wave-length, and they teach practically the same thing. Both books are today generally considered to be among the most significant and helpful spiritual guides available (and accessible to anyone).

Along these lines, in his 1975 translation of de Caussade’s work, John Beevers notes in his introduction: “Although Caussade was a Jesuit and held several important posts within the Society, his teaching owes far more to Salesian and Carmelite spirituality than to that of St. Ignatius. It would, of course, have been impossible for him not to have come under the influence of St. Francis de Sales…”

So, with all this in mind, I thought that over the next several days, I would post some snippets from Abandonment to Divine Providence here, sharing the wisdom he imparts in the Catholic tradition of such authors as de Sales. In this first excerpt, de Caussade advises a religious sister in a matter we can all relate to—dealing with difficult people (notice the gentle humor inherent in the phrase “the person whose place it is to wait upon you”): 
You have reason to bless God, my dear sister, for having preserved in your heart peace, gentleness, and charity for the person whose place it is to wait upon you. He has given you a great grace. Perhaps He may still allow that, either through ignorance, thoughtlessness, or even, if you will, out of caprice, or bad temper, she may give you occasion to practice patience. Then, sister, try to profit well by these precious occasions which are so adapted to gain the heart of God.

Alas! We offend this God of all goodness not only through ignorance and thoughtlessness, but deliberately and maliciously. We want Him to forgive us, and this He most mercifully does, and then we will not forgive others like ourselves. And we recite every day the prayer our Lord taught us, “Forgive us, Lord, as we forgive.”

We must remember also the words of our God, telling us that He would act towards us as we act towards our neighbor; therefore we ought to bear with our neighbor and to show him consideration, charity, gentleness and condescension; and God who is faithful to His promises will treat us in like manner.

Charity, patience, meekness, and humility of heart, benignity and the renunciation of your own ideas—these little daily virtues faithfully practiced will procure you a rich harvest of graces and merits for eternity.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

God of the living

I look forward
to the resurrection of the dead
and the life
of the world to come.

Closing lines from the Profession of Faith
(Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Seeking the good

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C
 Wisdom 11:22—12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11—2:2; Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus was not a good person—or so it seems. Though the image of the short man climbing a tree to get above the crowd may be charming or even comical, Luke tells us that he was both a tax collector and a wealthy man. In themselves, those are not evil designations. However, tax collectors in the time of Jesus were generally loathed because they worked on behalf of the Roman governors at the expense of their own people. Presumably, a tax collector was more concerned with his own wealth and status than the welfare of his kinfolk and countrymen.

What’s more, Zacchaeus was exceedingly wealthy because he was corrupt (as verse eight indicates). He was a swindler, taking from his own people more than what they owed to his foreign employers in order to stuff his own money pouch. Living under Roman rule was harsh enough for the Israelites; tax collectors (themselves Israelites!) like Zacchaeus added insult to injury. Anyone who profits from the misery of others is detestable.

Yet something inside this detestable man wanted to see Jesus. Surely, Zacchaeus had heard about the good things this man called Jesus had been doing. Like so many others, he was drawn toward him—if for no other reason than simple curiosity. So he climbed the tree.

This was enough to get Jesus’ attention. However tiny may have been the single speck of goodness within Zacchaeus’ greedy heart, Jesus acknowledged it. He recognized Zacchaeus’ action for what it was—a sincere desire to seek the good. In a moment of grace, Jesus calls out to this seeking heart by name: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” The tax collector could have waved him off and refused to come down from the tree, but instead, Zacchaeus responds to this in-breaking of grace: “He came down quickly and received [Jesus] with joy.”

What is being portrayed here is conversion—something which is always initiated by God but which also must involve a willing response. Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’ call and joyfully received him. As a result of this profound encounter with the Messiah, Zacchaeus vows to make amends for his avaricious life—giving half of his holdings to the poor and also repaying four times over those he had extorted (which went far beyond the demands of the Law). Zacchaeus’ moral compass shifts toward the goodness he encounters in Jesus, who had acknowledged the goodness (however meager) in him. Notice also that this onset of moral rectitude follows rather than prompts the encounter with God’s grace. It is the natural response to grace, which is never earned—a key distinction we all do well to heed.

Jesus does not excuse Zacchaeus’ crooked ways. Neither does he condemn. He simply appeals to the goodness he knows still exists at the core of the tax collector’s being. And for Zacchaeus, this changes everything. His inherent goodness as a child of God is rediscovered and affirmed. What was lost has been found. This fills him with joy, and greed is transformed into exceeding generosity. “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost,” says Jesus, fulfilling his earlier parable (Luke 15:1-7) of the shepherd seeking the one lost sheep out of 100.

Seeking the good leads Zacchaeus, who is not living a good life, to Jesus, who is Goodness Himself. Jesus seeks the good which he knows is within Zacchaeus, whose goodness then beautifully unfolds and blooms extravagantly—outdoing his previous ways. Why does this happen? Perhaps today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom holds the key:
[Lord], you love all things that are, and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated you would not have fashioned. … You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things.
Despite the distortion in human nature caused and perpetuated by the Fall, we are each created in the divine image of God, who is good. The Love of God manifested in Jesus seeks to hold up that mirror of goodness for us to gaze upon so that we may rediscover our true value and spend it accordingly. Wherever we may be and whatever we may be doing, Jesus calls us by name at every moment, encouraging us to receive him with joy and be the good we seek and rediscover in him.

And part of being the good involves holding that same mirror up for all the Zacchaeuses in today’s world. We must not be like those in the crowd in today’s Gospel, grumbling because all we can see in another is a sinner. Like Jesus, we must seek the good, the imperishable spirit in all things, because as the Body of Christ, we ourselves are commissioned to seek and save what is lost.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fiery love

"All who die in God's grace and friendship,
but still imperfectly purified,
are indeed assured of their eternal salvation;
but after death they undergo purification,
so as to achieve the holiness
necessary to enter the joy of heaven."
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030

All Souls' Day
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

NOTE: An excerpt from this morning's commentary read at Vigils in the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church.
There is no joy save that in paradise to be compared with the joy of the souls in purgatory. As the rust of sin is consumed, the soul is more and more open to God's love. Just as a covered object left out in the sun cannot be penetrated by the sun's rays, in the same way, once the covering of the soul is removed, the soul opens itself fully to the rays of the sun. Having become one with God's will, these souls, to the extent that he grants it to them, see into God.

When God sees the soul pure as it was in its origins, he tugs at it with a glance, draws it and binds it to himself with a fiery love. God so transforms the soul in himself that it knows nothing other than God. He will not cease until he has brought the soul to its perfection. The soul becomes like gold that becomes purer as it is fired, all dross being cast out.

-- St. Catherine of Genoa,
Purgation and Purgatory

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Everyday saints

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:3

Solemnity of All Saints
Friday, November 1, 2013
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14;
1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a

NOTE: Following is the homily delivered Friday by Archabbot Justin DuVall, O.S.B., in the Archabbey Church of Saint Meinrad.


In his Wednesday general audience this week, Pope Francis focused on the Communion of Saints, an article of the Creed that we profess at the Eucharist every Sunday and Solemnity. The saints have always been controversial. In the popular understanding they are men and women who have corrected all moral flaws, and above all, have erased every offensive personality quirk. No wonder they are prime fodder for detractors of religion who believe in the far more evident dark side of human nature.

But the true saints are not those who have done everything correctly and never made mistakes; they are people who have learned to accept the gift of life from the Source of all good gifts, God himself, and in doing so have uncovered a lasting happiness in the midst of life’s hardships.

And the Communion of these Saints is founded in Christ. It is not the result of valiant individual efforts at sanctity, but rather it is the fruit of the Paschal Mystery by which Christ has redeemed our human nature despite its flaws and with all its quirks. Today’s feast celebrates a real communion born of faith in the One in whom we have been made a new creation.

The crowd that heard the Beatitudes from Jesus on that hillside was filled with people for whom the hope of holiness and redemption seemed far off. Yet to them Jesus brought the consolation of God’s Kingdom, not as a distant dream, but as a real communion for their everyday lives. He was not promising the poor and the miserable and the sad and the cheated some better life after death; instead he opened their eyes to the power of God that can and does change everything here and now. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”— his words spoke of the present. If the beatitudes had only been about consolation offered after death, then Jesus would have emptied the world of God’s saving presence.

The Kingdom of heaven is at hand, making hoped-for relief attainable. Jesus called the poor, the hungry, the weeping, blessed—not because their weeping, hunger, and poverty were good things, but because God’s intervention NOW allowed them to experience salvation in a measure beyond all telling, although not without opposition from forces intent on maintaining the status quo. Jesus was put to death for something more than just his beautiful words.

To the crowd that had gathered to hear his word, he offered the fascination of the Kingdom, which demanded a change in who rules in this world. Through him God banished the isolation of sin and gathered the poor, the miserable, the sad, and the cheated into a people of his own choosing. To them belonged the faces of saints, made so by the gift of communion.

The power of God to save touches every age, ours included. As part of the communion of saints, the Church is the community of those who live out the Beatitudes through their lives of Christian faith. We who believe in the power of Christ’s death and resurrection, made present to us here at this Eucharist, have been initiated into a community of saints established by the Risen Christ. This way of life is God’s gift to us. It numbers us among that vast multitude envisioned by John in the Book of Revelation, from every nation, race, people and tongue, who know that salvation comes from God.

The voice of God calls to us daily in our Christian and monastic life and opens our eyes to see the hope of heaven in every circumstance of our life here on earth. We not only hope for a future life in heaven, but we believe that in our communion in Christ heaven already is breaking in on us. Its effect is as close now as the warmth of a lover’s breath against one’s cheek, a nearness that makes the heart race and the skin tingle, leaving us certain that the only thing yet left to come is the kiss.

Such faith numbers us among that vast multitude from every nation, race, people and tongue whose lives the Reign of God has changed by the power of love.

[Friday's] feast of All Saints is a celebration of God’s Kingdom pressing in on men and women of every age, our own included. It assures us of a place in the great heavenly procession when we accept the gift of grace and then live accordingly. If we are to know the real joy of the Beatitudes, then we dare not fail to become what we celebrate in this Eucharist: Christ’s body broken and his blood poured out for the life of the world. It is our communion with the vast multitude of saints in their eternal happiness.