See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (ESV)
Seeing the crowds, he (Jesus) went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)
Those of us who observe the church year may find the feast of All Saints to be one of the most difficult days to commemorate. On this earth, death still has a very real sting. The pain and longing of separation from those we love and those who have been big parts of our lives is a heavy burden to bear.
We also endure the pain of regret when loved ones go before us. We may wonder if our loved one died in Christ. Sometimes we carry grudges or unforgiveness toward those who hurt or wronged us before they died because we never had a chance to resolve the issues we had with that person when he or she was alive. Sometimes our remembrance of a family member is tainted either by our regret that we were evil to them, or the pain we suffered due to their evil toward us. The world is one big pack of sinners, after all. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. We all desperately need the grace of God in our relationships with others.
We do not have to resolve the issues with someone in order to forgive them. They may never “forgive us back.” We are called by Jesus to let go of our anger, resentment and unforgiveness toward others regardless of their response to us.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. There are situations in which reconciliation is impossible in this life- the death of the other party, or situations in which one’s health or life may be endangered through contact with the other party. Those who are living with physical or emotional abuse, or are enduring life with a loved one who abuses alcohol or drugs may have to separate themselves from and completely cut off contact with that person for the sake of their own life and health. In Christ we can pass on the gift of forgiveness, but we are not compelled to keep enduring abuse.
God gives us the grace to forgive those who have wronged us, as Jesus has first forgiven us- even if there is no reconciliation, or even contact with the other party.
Jesus has sweet comfort for His own when we have to encounter earthly death, unforgiveness, disappointment and separation. He is walking with us, even through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4.)
Many people read the above verses from the Gospel of Matthew and look at the Beatitudes as a “to do” list, things that we need to pull up our bootstraps and just do. On one level, that is not necessarily a bad thing, but like the Ten Commandments teach us God’s Law, (that are also seen as a sort of “to do” list,) and show us our inability to keep them, Jesus teaches these blessings so that we may see how we are not the source of any of the blessings of the Beatitudes.
Only in Christ can we receive these attributes.
He is the one acting upon us so that we do see our own complete inadequacy and our desperate need for Him.
He is our comfort and our companion in our mourning.
He is the champion of the meek and lowly, as He came to serve, not to be served.
He is the Bread of Life who feeds us with the most sweet and holy bread of heaven- His very own Body and Blood.
He is the source of all mercy.
He is complete and total holiness and purity.
He grants us peace that is beyond all understanding.
He gives us the confidence to stand up for things that are right even when they are not popular and may lead to our own personal harm.
He suffered the ultimate persecution and punishment (Isaiah 53:5) in our place, so that we would be blessed with salvation and life with Him forever.
The Beatitudes point us to our utter dependence on Jesus.
As we remember those who have gone before us, we thank God for those who passed along the faith to us, those who loved us, and those who we have confidence in Christ who we will see again. We ask God for the gift of forgiveness toward those who have hurt us, not because they deserve it, but because Jesus first forgave us. We ask that Jesus brings us healing and peace for the injuries from relationships that cannot be reconciled, especially those relationships that we have had with those who have died.
We pray for the gifts of the Beatitudes because they are the attributes of Christ.
Today is remembered in Mexico as Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Part of that tradition involves honoring one’s ancestors. Another part of it is acknowledging that death isn’t the end. It is a celebration of remembrance and anticipation.
We will see those who departed in Christ again in the next world, in the new heaven and earth.
According to the message of Genesis 3 we are all dead- every person living will die. In Christ we have His promise of eternal life. The Day of the Dead is for those who went before us, the great cloud of witnesses that the writer of Hebrews speaks of. (Hebrews 12:1-2) We celebrate their lives. We mourn their absence. We think about what we may have done differently. We pray for the grace to forgive where we need to forgive. But ultimately the lives of those witnesses serve to point us to Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the One Who is beside us and with us always, the One Who broke the curse of death so that we may live.