Gospel for Wednesday, Nov. 01: Matthew 5:1-12
All Saints’ Day
1Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the mountain: he sat down, and his disciples came up to him. 2He began to speak and taught them, saying, 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they will find mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10Blessed are the persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when they insult you, persecute you and, lying, say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and exult, for great is your reward in heaven. For thus persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
This is the second time this year that we meditate on this Gospel passage. We refer you to the more complete exegesis we did for the Fourth Sunday of Year A, and instead try to focus today, the Feast of All Saints, on what holiness is.
THE HOLINESS OF THE CHURCH
Sanctified by God
Christians are often called simply “the saints” (1 Cor. 6:1, 2); they are “holy by vocation” (Rom. 1:7): “holy,” that is, “set apart”: the term already heralds an absolute otherness from worldliness. It is good to emphasize the meaning of: “saints by vocation” or “called saints”: this expression does not indicate an individual call to holiness, but that ontological call of the whole Church that makes her holy. “‘Saints’> are always and only the ‘sanctified,’ and the passive indicates divine action… Sanctifying is ‘God’s business and not man’s’ (Blumhardt the Elder)” (H.-D. Wendland). It is the precious blood of Christ that sanctifies us (Heb. 13:12), not our poor works: we are “holy in Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:1; 4:21); we have been “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy together with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and theirs” (1 Cor. 1:2); “in him God chose us before the creation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless in his sight in charity” (Eph 1:4); “you have been washed, you have been sanctified, you have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of ours” (1 Cor 6:11); God “Christ Jesus . by the work of God has become for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).
“Christ prays, ‘Sanctify them in this glory.’ God’s labor is to communicate His glory to us: ‘That I may be sanctified theirs, sanctify them in truth (Jn. 17:1-17)'” (D. M. Turoldo).
The “chaste meretrix” Church
Even in the group of Jesus’ chosen intimates sin infiltrated: “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (Jn. 6:70). Among the Apostles there is Peter the Pope who will deny him, there is Judas who will sell him for thirty denarii, there is Thomas the unbeliever, there are James and John who demand positions of power in the Kingdom…
“The Church is “complexio oppositorum”; but, at first glance, is it not necessary for me to recognize that the collision of the “opposita” hides from me the unity of the “complexio”…? I am told that it is holy, and I see it full of sinners. I am told that it has as its mission to snatch man from earthly concerns, to remind him of his vocation to eternity, and I see it incessantly occupied with the things of earth… They assure me that it is universal, as open as divine intelligence and charity is open, and I note very often that its members, by a kind of fatality, timidly fall back into closed groups… From the earliest generations, when it barely passed beyond the limits of the old Jerusalem, the Church already reflected in itself the traits – the miseries – of common humanity” (H. De Lubac).
Ravasi writes: “We imagine the Church of the origins basically in a utopian form, almost haloed with light; but the New Testament documents tell us something quite different. They tell us that the Churches of the origins were divided among themselves, had internal tensions… The idealization of Christendom is not part of history. The Church also had in its interior the burden of the sin of men, while being in itself, as the body of Christ, holy… An expression has been used many times to express this concept but not in its original sense. The one who first used it was St. Ambrose in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke. He spoke of the Church as “casta meretrix,” that is, as a “chaste prostitute” … and this very violent contrast has become within the traditional interpretation a way of recalling the theme I was referring to.
It would be better to say, “Christendom is sinful, the Church is holy.”… However, Ambrose, by that expression, meant something else, for he was referring to the figure of Rahab, the famous prostitute of Jericho who welcomes the Jewish scouts and saves them (Josh 29. Ambrose’s concept is much more curious: the Church is to be generous like a prostitute, welcoming all the peoples of the earth, even enemies, as Rahab had done, who had welcomed the Jews, so that all may be purified and transformed by the blood of the Lamb, becoming chaste, holy. However, this expression, ‘casta meretrix’ has been used to indicate … that the Church is traversed by the limitation proper to the persons who compose it, even though its interior there is the continuous possibility of the purification that makes it holy.”
“Even today to be tense in search of the defects of those who proclaim Christianity, or to be ready to be scandalized by them, is nothing more than an alibi for never adhering, for never having to change oneself” (L. Giussani).
The Church is therefore “all glorious, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and spotless” (Eph. 5:26-27), even if there are sinners in it, even if there must be a constant effort to be faithful to the Gospel: “I wrote to you in the previous letter not to mix with the unclean. However, I was not referring to the impudent of this world or the greedy, the thieves or the idolaters: otherwise you would have to leave the world! I have written to you not to mingle with those who call themselves brothers, and are impudent or stingy or idolatrous or backbiters or drunkards or thieves; with such such as these you must not even eat together. Is it for me to judge those outside? Is it not those from within that you judge? Those outside will be judged by God. Remove the wicked from among you!” (1 Cor. 5:9-13).
A reporter questioned Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “In your opinion, Sister, what should change in the Church?” And the holy nun replied, “You and me, dear sir!”
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.