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Following the Beatitudes is the secret of holiness

Written by Pope John Paul II on Monday, 01 January 2001. Posted in Homilies, Pope John Paul II

Here are excerpts from the homily given by Pope John Paul II. on Nov. 1, 2000, the solemnity of All Saints, and 50th anniversary of the definition by Pope Pius XII of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven:

Praise and thanksgiving to God for having raised up in the Church a great multitude of saints, whom no one could count (cf. Rv 7: 9). A great multitude: not only the saints and blesseds we honour during the liturgical year, but also the anonymous saints known only to him. Mothers and fathers of families, who in their daily devotion to their children made an effective contribution to the Church's growth and to the building of society; priests, sisters and lay people who, like candles lit before the altar of the Lord, were consumed in offering material and spiritual aid to their neighbour in need; men and women missionaries, who left everything to bring the Gospel message to every part of the world. And the list could go on.

Praise and thanksgiving to God, particularly for the holiest of creatures, Mary, beloved of the Father, blessed because of Jesus, the fruit of her womb, sanctified and made a new creation by the Holy Spirit. A model of holiness for having put her own life at the disposal of the Most High, she "shines forth on earth as a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God" (Lumen gentium, n. 68).

Today is exactly the 50th anniversary of the solemn act by which my revered predecessor Pope Pius XII, in this very square, defined the dogma of Mary's Assumption body and soul into heaven. We praise the Lord for having glorified his Mother by associating her with his victory over sin and death.

Today's liturgy speaks completely of holiness. But to know what is the way to holiness, we must go with the Apostles up the mount of the Beatitudes to draw near to Jesus and listen to the words of life that come from his lips. Today too he says to us again:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! The divine Teacher proclaims "blessed" and, we could say, "canonizes" first of all the poor in spirit, that is, those whose heart is free of prejudices and conditionings, and who are therefore totally disposed to the divine will. Their total and trusting fidelity to God presupposes renunciation and consistent self-detachment.

Blessed are those who mourn! This is the blessedness not only of those who suffer from the many misfortunes that belong to the mortal human condition, but also those who courageously accept the sufferings that result from the sincere profession of Gospel morality.

Blessed are the pure in heart! He proclaims blessed those who are not content with outward or ritual purity, but seek that absolute inner rectitude which excludes all deceit and duplicity.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! Human righteousness is already a very lofty goal, which ennobles the heart of whoever pursues it, but Jesus is thinking of that greater righteousness which lies in seeking God's saving will: blessed above all are those who hunger and thirst for this righteousness. For Jesus says: "He who does the will of my Father who is in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 7: 21).

Blessed are the merciful! Happy are those who overcome their hardness of heart and indifference, to recognize in practice the primacy of compassionate love, following the example of the Good Samaritan and, in the last analysis, of the Father "rich in mercy" (Eph 2: 4).

Blessed are the peacemakers! Peace, the sum of all messianic blessings, is a demanding task. In a world marked by tremendous antagonisms and barriers, fraternal harmony inspired by love and sharing must be promoted by overcoming hostilities and conflicts. Blessed are those who dedicate themselves to this most noble endeavour!

The saints took these words of Jesus seriously. They believed that they would find "happiness" by putting them into practice in their lives. And they realized their truth in everyday experience: despite their trials, moments of darkness and failures, they already tasted here below the deep joy of communion with Christ. In him they discovered the initial seed, already present in time, of the future glory of God's kingdom. (...)

The depth of the Blessed Virgin's faith in God's word appears clearly in the song of the Magnificat: "My soul magnifies the Lord, I and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden" (Lk 1: 46-48)... The greatness of the gift corresponds to the depth of the humility. He who is mighty did "great things" for her (cf. Lk 1: 49), and she knew how to accept them with gratitude and to hand them on to all generations of believers. This is the way to heaven followed by Mary, Mother of the Saviour, who goes ahead of all the Church's saints and blesseds on this path.

Before the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father said:

At the end of this solemn celebration in honour of All Saints, our gaze turns upwards. Today's feast reminds us that we were made for heaven, where Our Lady has already gone and now awaits us.

The Christian life means journeying here below with our hearts turned upwards, towards our heavenly Father's House. This was how the saints journeyed, as the Virgin Mother of the Lord did first of all. The Jubilee reminds us of this essential dimension of holiness: our state as pilgrims who each day seek the kingdom of God while trusting in divine Providence. This is genuine Christian hope, which has nothing to do with fatalism or an escape from history. On the contrary, it spurs us to concrete commitment, as we look to Christ, God made man, who opens for us the way to heaven.

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