Children of God, just like us

By: By Sharon Priester

Solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1

Revelation 7:2-4,9-14; Psalm 24:1bc-2,3-4ab,5-6; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a

WHO ARE your heroes — those you look up to, want to emulate? Probably as a child you had some heroes — maybe an aunt or an uncle, an older sibling, a favorite baseball player. For me, in junior high, it was a teacher that really helped me understand geometry. I wanted to be just like him, to teach like him.

Today, however, I think differently. I would rather be more like one of the saints of our church, one who demonstrated their deep love for God and others, and who had a commitment to living a life reflecting God’s love.

This weekend, our church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints, a day when we remember the thousands of saints of our Catholic Church. Some of their names are very familiar to us, like St. Francis of Assisi. Others, we may know very little about, like St. Gerard of Clairvaux.

As early as A.D. 100, the early followers of Christ remembered and honored many Christians who had died for their faith, the martyrs. The term comes from the Greek word martys, which means witness. These martyrs were persecuted and willingly gave up their lives for God.

Today, through the canonization process, the church recognizes and declares not only martyrs to be saints but also those who “practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 828).

IN THIS WEEK’S Gospel passage from Matthew, people are gathered on a mountain to hear Jesus speak. He tells those gathered at his feet that anyone who has experienced hunger, thirst, pain, sorrow, meekness, or persecution for the sake of righteousness, belongs to the kingdom of God. Jesus gave the people, who had experienced such suffering, hope that they would be able to be in the kingdom of heaven. We, too, have suffered in such ways and Jesus also gives us that same hope of being in the kingdom of heaven.

In the second reading, John tells us, “We are God’s children, now.” It is because of God’s deep love of us that we are considered children of God. John goes on to say that all God’s children will see him and be with him in heaven if they live according to God’s commandments, committed to doing his will.

The first reading from the Book of Revelation describes a vision. A very large crowd, made up of every nation, race, people and tongue, has been gathered and is standing before the throne where the Lamb sits. Each person is wearing a white robe, made white in the Blood of the Lamb, and carrying palm branches. Also present are the angels and other creatures, crying out in a loud voice with the people in the crowd, “Salvation comes from our God and from the Lamb.”

Who are these people in the crowd? They are the children of God, people just like us, standing beside the saints, the holy ones who have followed God’s will. What a glorious gathering. Hopefully, each of us at the end of time will also be standing in this very large crowd before the throne where the Lamb sits, in a white robe, singing, “Salvation comes for our God.”

Let us remember the saints this weekend, as well as every day of our lives. Let us also remember our true nature as children of God. What kind of choices will we make to reflect that? How will we show others that they, too, are children of God? In other words, how can we be more like the saints of our church?

Today is the day to start learning more about the saints, the heroes of our faith — what they did and how they lived their lives for God — and sharing what we have learned through our words and actions.

Sharon Priester is one of six regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics and serves the Bloomington and Lincoln vicariates of the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.

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