Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 1 November 2009

 I doubt if life has ever been lived as publicly as it is today.  Anybody famous or  well-known has their life tracked in the media.  More than that, there is a cult of celebrity in which people are famous for  -  well, for what exactly, beyond a talent for self-publicity? 

To this we can add the instanteousness of response which is made possible by the internet.  It is as if to be is to blog, or to be true is to tweet.  It means that we live in a culture of the here-and-now.  There is no time for reflection.  Anything said or done has to be immediate if it is to make an impact.  It is a world of appearances, and appearances count for everything.
The world that we remember on the Solemnity of All Saints invites us to a different way of life:  to the slow, patient shaping that God undertakes in each one of us.  The saints are those who have stayed with the process so faithfully that their lives have been filled with grace.  Just as a celebrity is driven by publicity, so a truly holy man or woman lives by grace and lives through grace, which is to say, by the work of the Holy Spirit within them. 

But whereas publicity is by its very nature public and lives for the passing moment, grace is usually private and its effects take time.  But only the works of grace will truly last, because they are written on the soul for eternity.  We need to remember this, however:  just because grace at work is usually hidden does not mean that it is without effect.  On the contrary, we know that the life of each of us has its effect on others.  In that invisible realm of the soul the world around is influenced also.  If you doubt that, consider this question.  Would you rather live in a world of saints or a world of celebrities?
We have heard the beatitudes so often (Matt. 5.1-12) that their effect is rather blunted.  Consider, for a moment, how startling they must have sounded when they were first heard.  We might have expected it to be said that the rich would be happy, or the powerful would be blessed, that the famous would be content and the well-connected would prosper.  But that would be the world of surface appearances.

Instead, Jesus turns to that hidden world where we are most truly ourselves, the world where we are open to the depths of God.  It is a world of truth, where men and women are honest about their failings – and yet desire to grow in love of God and neighbour. 

It is a world of possibilities, where the gifts and generosities that lie dormant in each soul can be nourished and brought forth to the good of the world.  Here, without fanfare, saints are made.  It is a world where we learn to listen to listen before we speak (and so we are poor in  spirit).  It is a world where there is gentleness rather than wrath (and so we inherit the earth).  It is a place of penitence, in which we are comforted by God, and it is a time when we stand up for what is right, with the help of God.

It is a world of mercy, and a world motivated by the good, which is to say that a pure heart is the well-spring of every intention.  It is a world of peace and of courage in the face of persecution.  It is the community of the saints.

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity RC Church, Brook Green, London W6.

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