âTo each one of us Christ is saying, âIf you want your life and mission to be fruitful like mine, do like me. Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried. â¦ Do not be afraid. Those who shun suffering will remain alone. No one is more alone than the selfish. But if you give your life out of love for others, as I give mine for all, you will reap a great harvest. You will have the deepest satisfactions. Do not fear death or threats. The Lord goes with you.ââ
Thatâs what All Saintsâ Day is all about -- and Archbishop Oscar Romero, who spoke those words, is one of our great saints. A saint, not because heâs been officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, but because he lived those words. He truly lived the gospel -- the âgood newsâ in a time and in a country, El Salvador, where good news, especially for the poor, was almost non-existent. When Romero says, âDo not fear death or threats,â it wasnât a figure of speech. His living out the gospel resulted in his martyrdom.
Archbishop Romero is a wonderful example when weâre considering saints, because he actually was very much like each of us. He ended up being a great saint, but he didnât start out being one; his sainthood came from conversion, just like ours can. It came from knowing Scripture -- particularly from his study as a priest -- just like many of ours can. His conversion came from reflecting on his life -- what he believed, how he worked with people, how he reacted to situations, -- and realizing that even though he was a good priest, a kind, pastoral man serious and sincere in his vocation, there was a part of his life that needed conversion. What made him a saint -- what would make each one of us a saint -- is that he opened himself to being converted, to changing his direction, to accepting the fact that he could change his mind and his attitude. In his case, that change was from supporting the status quo to putting his reputation, and finally his life, on the line for the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the poor.
Thatâs what Jesus means by saying, âblessed are youâ¦â Blessed are you who live a âkingdom of God kind of life.â Blessed are you who see a âkingdom of God kind of lifeâ as a life of service -- of unconditional loving service -- to all Godâs people. Yes, being one of those who tries to live a âblessedâ life sometimes means giving your life as martyrs today still do. But for most of us, it means taking the Gospel seriously and taking our Baptismal promises seriously.
It helps to remember that this particular section of Matthewâs Gospel that we read for All Saintsâ Day is part of a larger context. In Chapter 4 we read about Jesusâ time in the desert before the beginning of his ministry. We read about the arrest of John the Baptist and the call of Peter and Andrew, James and John. Jesusâ ministry was growing, his âfame,â Matthew tells us, was spreading because of his preaching, teaching, and healing.
These first 12 verses of Chapter 5 are only the beginning of a longer sermon. Jesus continues by offering his listeners the images of being the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In a way, weâd be reminded of Jesusâ saying about himself in Johnâs gospel that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Here heâs pointing out to his listeners that they, too, must be the same. In John, of course, Jesus isnât saying that only he is the way to salvation. Heâs saying that his life shows us what our lives should be like. In this chapter of Matthew, Jesus uses different images to say the same thing.
The way for us to be salt of the earth or light to the world is to live the beatitudes deliberately, to take them seriously as a model for that âkingdom of God kind of life,â not as some nice pious clichÃ©s. We also canât pick and choose which we want to live, which we think best fits us. They are all of one piece, and theyâre all important. The beatitudes in Matthew are both poetry and prose, sermon and meditation. The words are reflective, yet challenging. Blessed are all those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who hunger for righteousness, who are merciful, and who are peacemakers.
The beatitudes are an invitation. Theyâre an invitation to examine our lives and see how weâre doing in this life we promised to live at our baptism. Thatâs one of the great things about being a part of the people of God: we have lots of help. We have the commandments, the beatitudes, the example of Jesusâ life, his constant reminder that he is showing us what God is like and how much God loves us. We have the words and symbols of our liturgy. We have our sacraments and our prayers. All these things surround us and offer us the support we need to become saints ourselves, to join the blessed ones.
We wonât all be Romeroâs. But in our reading from Ecclesiasticus, we heard, âthere are some of them who have left a name and there are some who have no memorial, but these were people of mercy, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten.â Every one of us is called to this kind of blessedness -- to be people of mercy.
All Saintsâ Day is a wonderful day to remember both kinds of people -- the official saints and those who have been saints to us. And itâs a good day to think about our own lives and to remind ourselves that each one of us is called to be a light to the world. Remember, most of our official saints were folks just like us, but folks who were open to conversion, open to allowing themselves to go in a different direction because they knew it was the right way to go in spite of the consequences.
But we donât have to fear the consequences, because all through the Gospels weâre reminded that God is with us. Archbishop Romero puts it well: âYou are prophets in the world -- you have to announce like the prophets -- like a prophetic people anointed by the Spirit that anointed Christ --the wonders of God in the world, to encourage the good that is done in the world and to energetically denounce evil.â
Thatâs our calling, each one of us, and we can accomplish this good work by opening ourselves to conversion together.