The church tells us that November is a month Catholic faithful pray for their dead relatives and friends. The first two days of the month, in fact, serve as a fitting reminder to all of us to observe our age-old tradition to pay our respects to those who have passed away.
What may come as a surprise is the question of why the church uses for its gospel passage the Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes at the beginning of the month, and perhaps some of you might even ask what is the correlation between the Beatitudes and our observance of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and our commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (Nov. 2).
I believe there is a reason for this, and the most plausible rationale is that the Saints are in heaven because they were able to live out the principles embodied in the Beatitudes, and this gospel passage reminds us that we, too, will experience this passage to eternal life in the company of the angels and the Saints in heaven.
However, this is contingent on how much of our nature have we surrendered to God because salvation is not anchored only on faith and belief. While Jesus Christ has already redeemed us from the sins we have committed and as he leads us to a new life with him, we must remember that we also need to do our part.
Jesus has done his part as he has already ransomed us from the clutches of the devil and he now expects us to do our part – that is to concretize our belief in him by doing what he commands us to do and that is: To know Him (Jn 17:3); To love Him (Mt 22:37); To serve Him (Jn 12:26); and To be happy (Jn 16:22) in this life and in the next.
Christ is calling each one of us to a life of discipleship, and this begins with conversion or the act of turning away from our former ways and turning to Him.
He says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me (Mk 8:34).” A disciple is a learner, and for the convert, Christianity is not an “it” or an “issue” but it’s always about “Him.” To follow Jesus is to live as he lived – suffering and all and to love as he loved to the point of death.
We should also know that Christian discipleship is rooted in our communion with the Father. “If you really know me you would know my Father also.” (Jn 14:7). This communion can either be reached either publicly – in the Liturgy of the Church and/or privately in the secrecy of our hearts.
The spirit of discipleship is the spirit of the Sermon in the Mount. “How blest are the poor in spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Mt 5:3) In our journey of faith as disciples, Jesus invites us to find fulfillment not in clinging to possession but in letting go. The Beatitudes reminds us to resist our natural urge not only for material things but also for immaterial things – power, influence, traditions, etc.
The objective of Jesus was to create a human society based on brotherly love and equality for all and he desires that no disciple should live in an unjust society without doing their best to challenge and change the injustice. “Since you have purified yourself by obedience to the truth so see to it that you love one another intensely with all your hearts.” (1 Pet 1:22)
What Jesus demands from us is our active participation and commitment to make sure that the Kingdom of God is not trampled upon by unjust and or immoral laws such as banning prayer in schools. We cannot be apolitical because doing nothing is in itself a political act.
Thus, the modern challenge to contemporary Christians is to correct the imbalance in the rights of the people especially in the third-world countries, the economic imbalance between the poor and the rich nations and, the destruction of the environment which has now resulted in an uncontrollable climate change.
Jesus is telling us in Matthew’s gospel to: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” (Mt 6:33)