To be a Saint is to strive to with all our being just to become ourselves ….not to ‘find ourselves’ in the lingo of pop psychology, but to become who we truly are in the depths of ourselves. And it is not easy because so much in our culture urges us to believe that it is better to be someone else, who drives a better car or wears a more delicious perfume. While we all know at some level that this is all illusion, yet the temptation can be strong. Which is why Jesus’s words in the Beatitudes are so important and so life giving.
Let’s think for a moment about those whom Jesus declares blessed. Philip Yancey was right I think when he wrote, “blessed is far too sedate to carry the percussive force Jesus intended. The Greek word conveys something like a short cry of joy, ‘oh you lucky thing!” But of course Jesus then lists a whole heap of people we would rather not be , those who are poor, mourning, hungry and persecuted.
So what was he actually driving at? Well remember firstly that Jesus was speaking to the crowds of poor landless labourers, for whom poverty, hunger, mourning and persecution were just everyday life. And he was telling them that they were lucky and important to God.
Secondly remember that it is exactly when we experience poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution that we are best placed to become our true selves. The rich can afford to wear masks. When we hide from our griefs we disconnect ourselves from the reality of our being. But when we truly mourn, when we are hungry, then indeed we are ‘lucky’, because in those places we are most open to becoming ourselves. This is not to suggest at all that God is a sadist in the sky, sending bad things to make us good. What I think is meant is that in these circumstances, which come to all of us at times, we are given the unique chance to become most completely ourselves. These are truths for the heart not the head, for as the writer of the Cloud of Unknowing puts it “by love they may be caught and held, by thinking never. Yet on this All Saints day, may we revisit the Beatitudes as the place of our becoming, and may we seek to become ever more and more ourselves, till that day when we join the great company of Saints on high whose number cannot be counted and through whom the light and glory of God shines. Amen
by Penny Jones, for All Saints Day, 1 November 2017, Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Milton