Introduction to the Scriptures for November
In the northern hemisphere, the month of November draws our attention to the dying in nature—leafless trees, brown earth and dormant plants. Mindful of this, our liturgical calendar brings to consciousness the end times when Christ will return in glory. In addition to celebrating the end of living another year of encountering Christ in his mysteries, we begin a new Liturgical Year filled with the promise of deeper transformation into him. During the next five weeks, we will rejoice with our sisters and brothers who have won the race and, to use Elizabeth Johnson’s image, are cheering us on as we run toward our goal. As we move toward the closing of our church year, the spotlight shines on the end times, the centrality of a faith filled with confidence in God’s trustworthiness and Jesus Christ as our one and only ruler.
Sunday, November 1 Reflection
Readings: Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a
Prior to the Gospel reading we hear today, Jesus has called his first disciples and traveled throughout Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea preaching repentance, for the “kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What images come to mind when you hear the “kingdom of heaven?” If our major lens is life hereafter, then the scene of the heavenly throne room depicted in our first reading might be our response. That is, heaven is where the saints we celebrate today are caught up, with all of creation, in the worship of God. But we are cautioned in the letter from John against spending time speculating about the contours of the hereafter—it has yet to be revealed. An image that comes to mind is a pineapple upside down cake!
Just like the cake, the kingdom of heaven that Jesus preached turned established wisdom upside down. The word “beatitude” though difficult to translate can be understood as being fortunate in God’s eyes. Ordinarily we do not think that those who mourn, who hunger and thirst and are persecuted, are fortunate. So what is Jesus telling us, his disciples? An important clue comes from the first and eighth beatitudes. Unlike the other six which describe a future reality, these two describe a present one. That is, the “poor in spirit” and “those persecuted for the sake of righteousness” already possess the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit are fortunate because they are grounded in truth—they know that all they are and have is a gracious gift from God. Those persecuted for the sake of righteousness are fortunate because their hearts beat at one with God; they are so attuned to God and God’s ways that they incur the ire of those who are against God
Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and founder of Logotherapy, observed that everything can be taken away from a person but one thing: the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. The saints we celebrate today chose to live in truth and have their hearts beat at one with God. What about you and I — do we desire to be among the fortunate?
–Sister Jean Flannelly, SC
After more than 25 years preparing men and women for ordained and lay ministry in the Church, Sister Jean currently serves as Consultant for Mission at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, NY. She also ministers in adult spirituality and adult faith formation through workshops and spiritual direction.