And yet today we celebrate All Saints’ Day, as we do every year on this date, and the readings of this solemnity are always the same. These readings do not point to this present moment that we’re living through, but rather to the age to come. It is in a way a relief to listen to them, which turn our gaze from the exhausting, depressing news cycle, and focus it instead on the blessedness of the age to come. It’s a little like being in the middle of a polar vertex and then seeing a live webcam of a sunny, tropical beach scene: it may be miserable here, but at least it’s sunny and warm somewhere else, and maybe we’ll get to go there eventually ourselves.
We’re so often stuck in the present, fixated on it, and constantly grinding our teeth in anxiety. Let’s lift our thoughts instead for a moment to what God is calling us to. In the reading from Revelation, John first hears an angel command that 144,000 people from every tribe of Israel be marked with a special seal that would protect them from the coming tribulation, and then John sees “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” In other words, God’s promise of salvation was for the Jews, but also for people from every nation throughout the world. A vast multitude which no one could count! Certainly encouraging words to hear.
While this reading from Revelation points to the future, the next two reference the present moment in which we are living, but likewise direct our gaze to the future. In his letter, John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” We are already, even now, God’s children – and what consolation these words should give us – but if we remain faithful to the Lord, there’s something even greater that awaits us, which is still a mystery: it “has not yet been revealed.” But we do know that it involves seeing God as he is, face to face, and being a part of the very life of the Holy Trinity.
Our Gospel reading is of the Beatitudes, perhaps the most well-known of Jesus’ teachings. Each Beatitude follows the same pattern: “Blessed are…, for they will…”. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the merciful, and so on – all of these refer to the present. But they all point to something which will be fulfilled in the future: “for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, for they will be comforted, for they will inherit the land.” Each of them refer not to this life, not to this world, but to the next. Each one of them points to heaven, which is a state of “beatitude” or blessedness, when all the struggles and sorrows of this life, all the depressing news, all the doom and gloom, will vanish, to be replaced by eternal happiness with God in heaven.