First Reading: Revelation 7:2-4; 9-14; Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-3; Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
Today, the Church celebrates the victory of our God in the company of all the redeemed in the Heavenly Kingdom. We venerate those who through their life struggles and difficulties, lived exemplary lives, even though they were not officially canonized. Their heroism in being righteous and as ideals in practicing Christian virtues.
Meanwhile, the first reading highlights the visions of the sealing of God’s elect. The 144,000 people sealed here are not numbers to be taken literally as only those that will enter heaven, but a symbolic number which represents a multitude of the redeemed who constitute the perfect Israel. For the Israelites, 7 signifies a perfect number, 4 for the earth, 12 for Israel and 1,000 for a great number. This gives us an anticipated glimpse into the eschatological redemption in heaven. The two visions portray, first; the militant Church on earth (living Saints) and second; the triumphant Church in Heaven (glorified Saints – both canonized & uncanonized), those who have cleansed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. How? What actually did they do in order to gain entrance to the throne of God?
In the Gospel, Jesus Christ enunciates the prerequisites for gaining entrance to God’s heavenly throne. These include: those who bore many trials and troubles of life patiently, as part of God’s plan for their sanctification, and accepted most of their challenges as their own share of suffering in following Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). Also, those who have their blessed state of eternal happiness because, they carried out what is recommended in the Beatitudes.
For instance, the poor in spirit are those who do not depend on their ability, but solely rely on God for help; the mourners are those who bear much earthly pains and griefs; the hunger for righteousness are those anxious to serve God truly; the merciful are those who are companionate, kind, and forgives their offenders easily; the pure in heart are those who love God sincerely and always ask for forgiveness whenever they make mistakes; the peacemakers are those who foster love among people by settling disputes; those persecuted for righteousness are the very ones that suffer for their uprightness, and those falsely accused are those who do not revenge for offences done to them by others.
As Christians, we may not suffer the same martyrdom like the saints, but may encounter it in subtle ways through severe struggles, challenges, and difficulties, oppositions or persecutions occasioned by sociopolitical, economic and religious pressures in our contemporary society. For the Psalmist says: “Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord delivers them all (Psalm 34:19). Jesus Christ affirms this, and says: “In the world, you will suffer many persecutions, but be courageous, I have conquered the world (John 16:33).” However, no matter how turbulent our challenges may be, God is still in control and is always with us (Matthew 1:23; 28:20).
Moreover, the greatest proof of God’s love for us is the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we all have been made God’s children. Therefore, since God wants everyone to be saved, and has adopted us as His children, then we should have hope in Him, just as St. John reminds us in the second reading. So, we need to live a life worthy of our calling, enduring all our tribulations patiently, just like the glorified saints did while they were here on earth.
May the Almighty God, empower you more, so as to live a life worthy of your calling, enduring all your tribulations patiently, so that at the end, you may be crowned a Saint in Heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.