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Feast of All Saints (Ages 6-9): Emptying and Filling

(Adults, you may have noticed that I keep converting "kingdom of heaven" to "kingdom of God." The phrase that is used in the Bible can be translated as the "reign of God" which connotes a situation rather than a place. "Kingdom of God" is a compromise and helps the children to contemplate what Jesus means when he says the "Kingdom of God is at hand." (Matthew 3:2))


Matthew 5.1-12a


This Sunday, the Gospel takes us back to the mountain where Jesus teaches the people. They have put aside everything in order to sit by him. It is like they have emptied themselves of all their plans, all of the things they could have been doing, so that they might be filled with his words.


When Jesus speaks, he repeats certain words over and over. What do you notice?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven

Nine times Jesus begins his sentence with, "Blessed are..." These sentences are called "the Beatitudes."


What does "blessed" mean? A person is "blessed" if they have received blessings. "Blessings" are gifts from God, so anyone who has received gifts from God is blessed. But how much more blessed is someone who knows they have received blessings?! In the Beatitudes, Jesus is telling the people who is blessed and why.


Six times Jesus says, "for they will..." These people are blessed he says, because something is going to happen to them. Let's think about some of these people.


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

This is perhaps the strangest Beatitude. Someone who mourns is full of sorrow because someone has died. There is an emptiness inside of them, like a vacuum, where joy used to be. How is that a blessing? How is that person blessed? A vacuum sucks into itself everything around so that the vacuum becomes filled. When someone is empty of all joy, what fills the vacuum? Jesus tells us it is the comfort of God. In the arms of the Good Shepherd, will they know joy again?

"for they will be comforted"

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Someone who is meek, has no power. Sometimes this is their choice. They may have chosen not to use their power or strength over other people. In any case, they are empty of power. I wonder...if someone is empty of their own power, what fills that vacuum? Whose strength fills them?


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

People who are hungry and thirsty--they are empty, too, aren't they? But Jesus is not talking about empty bellies. He is talking about people who hunger and thirst for righteousness. This means that they want what is right, what is good, what is true. Whose rightness, whose goodness, whose truth fills those who want it so badly? Will God leave them empty?


So much emptying! So much filling!


“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Mercy is a gift. It is the gift of forgiveness instead of anger. Who does this remind you of? We know that it is God who gives mercy. We experience the gift of God's mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation.


People who are merciful act like God. They empty themselves of anger, and instead, they give like God gives. Jesus tells us that they will never be empty; they will be filled with the mercy of God.


We can keep going through all the Beatitudes. We can keep asking what are these people empty of and what fills them instead? Let's do one more.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

We can ask, what would someone have to empty themselves of so that they can see God? What sorts of things distract us from God? What things divide our hearts, so that they are not focused, not one, not pure? We noticed that the people who followed Jesus up the mountain, emptied their schedules and left all their plans behind. Now, as they sit at his feet, who do they see? Whose face fills their eyes?


So much emptying. So much filling.


We skipped the first Beatitude. It begins,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit...

Who are the poor in spirit? What does that mean? It sounds as though they have emptied themselves of spirit. This is a choice they have made. They have decided to empty themselves of their own plans, of their own desires, of their own spirit--so that they may be filled with the Plan of God, with the Desire of God, with the Spirit of God. They want what God wants. They want to work with God.


Can we do that, too?


The ending is of this first Beatitude is slightly different from the others we looked at. What do you hear?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

In this first Beatitude, Jesus doesn't say, "for they will..." He is not talking about filling that will happen, but something that is already here. Those who decide to work with God, already belong to the Kingdom of God.


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