75. All Saints Day
Jeremiah 31: 31-34 Psalm 150
Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-17 Matthew 5: 1-12
Collect: O Lord you have wonderfully bound together all your faithful people in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord; give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in faith and holy obedience that we may come to that unu erable joy which you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.
All Saints Day
Kandhamal! Whenever we hear the name ‘Kandhamal’, it disturbs us. We are reminded of the terrible carnage in history against first generation Christians in Kandhamal, in Odisha, India. Several hundreds of people were massacred by right wing religious fundamentalists. Survivors fled to different parts of the State. Several women were widowed and several children were orphaned. Besides, the houses of many Christians were destroyed; their worship places ruined, and their cattle and goats were lost. Even in the post-carnage context the affected communities continue to be vulnerable; they struggle to earn a living and to get their daily bread, they continue to live in fear of being attacked any time. In my several visits to the regions found a greater faith in them. Constructions of the broken churches are their concern than their ruined houses. I have not witnessed such faith among traditional Christians.
When we contemplate on All Saints day we are called to remember our first generation Christians. They have suffered and sacrificed a lot for the cause of their faiths like Christians in Kandhamal. Today’s Gospel portion speaks a lot to us on this. Here we have a classical example in our Gospel reading for today that talk about the first generation Christians and their life challenges.
According to St. Mathew Ch 5: Vs 1-2: this was a first recording that Jesus’ ‘teaching encounter’ of the followers and disciple. Let us keep the following for our consideration.
a. Jesus sat down on the mountain before his disciples sit.
b. Jesus saw crowds not just a crowd.
c. He began to teach the following crowds in which his disciples also be part. (There was no special place for his disciple).
This sends a different message to the followers that, there is no hierarchy in the reign of God that Jesus promotes but the fellowship of ordinary humans as equals.
Humble Beginning In view of the fact that, Jesus often taught the reversals of social status in reign of God, the disciples were keen to know the meaning of life that attracted many was unusual.
Jesus probably illustrated this by advising the disciples to become humble in order to be greatest in reign of God in which there is no hierarchy rather fellowship of equals.
One should never regret for the past and should not forget the past too.
Community life is not free from conflicts. Here the fi rst generation Christians as new community faced unjust suffering for the cause of Gospel, their new faiths and identity. Faith has become source of suffering rather strength. Due to the love of God and demand of the Gospel they did not confront the system which suffers them instead they accept for the sake of the future generations. The fundamental principal of lives were exercised by them and won the others to be part of the greater community which is reign of God.
As a community of new believers, the Gospel also demanded a lot from them including the culture of segregation and separation. But they all had child like Spirits in them took it sportive for the sake of Gospel. Today we failed on such since, we live in adult phase in our faith journey as third or fourth generation Christians.
A similar community was referred in our Epistle reading today, who are they? Rev. V 13, the response was in V 14. “These are the ones who have gone through great sufferings” for the sake of future generations.
The Old Testament portion for today (Jeremiah 31: 31-34) calls us to enter into a new agreement with God. Since, we live in an age in which we have forgotten our past, God reminds us and calls us to enter into a new agreement which is different from our ancestors. This agreement will reminds us to accept the God of our ancestors as our God. God’s assures in V 34, No longer to teach one another to obey me but I as God will be with them not as a ruler like. Such a great promise of agreement.
There is a Caribbean Saying, “A Community of people, without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots”. Are we aware of our Christian Roots?
There is another saying, “when we delightfully enjoy the flames on the candle which wipeout darkens, we do not remember the burnt match stick which lighted the candle”. Do we remember our ancestors who risk for the sake of Gospel for us like a burnt match sticks?
Let us thank God for their lives since they are saints?
May God Bless all of us.
Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar