The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Beatitudes: Peace and Joy in believing.

Reflection: All Saints. A Great cloud of witnesses. Irish tradition and, indeed Christian belief, has been and is very conscious of the union of the saints in heaven and the faithful on earth, of the communion of saints. The feast of All Saints is celebrated on 1 November, which in Irish tradition is the feast of Samhain, a celebration in Ireland going back to pagan times. It was an occasion when mortals were believed to have contact with those in the other world, and had, and has, many superstitions connected with it. This belief was shared by European nations beyond Ireland. On this feast the Church invites us to recall that earth and the living are united with the other world and our departed through the communion of saints. On this feast we honour that innumerable multitude of believers who are now united with God, Christ, Mary and the angels in heaven, not just the canonized saints but all those who died in God’s grace. Since Christian belief and devotion tell us that we can pray to them, and that they can intercede for us, we can rest assured that they, our departed loved ones, are united with us and that we can pray to them for favours.

Dialogue: Beatitudes: Peace and Joy in believing. In Ireland today, as in many parts of the old world, there is a lack of peace and joy with regard to faith and the Church. In Ireland some observers, while noting the fact, are of the opinion that this is not evidence of a loss of faith, but possibly a manifestation of a new-found autonomy, freedom of spirit from what is regarded as the domination of an authoritarian Church, that dictated how they should think and act on many matters, personal and otherwise.

            This analysis of the present situation, and of the dominance of the Church in earlier times, may well be exact. The Church, and all believers within it, need to remedy matters if this is so. It may be some consolation, and a matter of encouragement, that the problem is an old one. The apostle Paul had to confront a similar situation with the Corinthian Church in his own day (about AD 57, six years after he had founded the church there). They were on bad terms with him, and in the course of a letter to them (2 Corinthians 1:24) he expresses himself on these words: “I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith”. This, too, today must be the concern of the Church with regard to the faithful: not lording it over their faith but working with them for their joy in the faith. Paul’s own letters, as the Gospels, are replete with prayers for peace and joy in believing, for instance to the Romans (15:13): “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace”.

            Peace and joy in believing are gifts of the Holy Spirit, to be prayed for. In the human soul they are connected with belief in the religion of Christ as the pearl of great price, and union with God here and hereafter as the one thing necessary. They can, and must, co-exist with the limitations of an institutional Church, and the preaching of the full saving message of Christ in new and changing circumstances. The Beatitudes are divine blessings from God, connected with the kingdom of heaven. But they do not exclude problems, even persecution. Let us pray that real or presumed weaknesses and failing within the Church do not take from the perception of Christian vision, and the person of Christ, which bring with them the peace and joy in believing.

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