Today the Universal Church celebrates the feast of All Saints.  Many saints are known to us by name.  These men and women are examples of a holy life, and they are worth imitating in our own lives as Christians.  Many of them have their own special feast day, which we celebrate throughout the year.  But today we celebrate not only the Saints whose names we know, but all Saints.  That is, every man, woman and child who has died in the state of grace and is now adoring God in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Today is their feast day.

These men and women we call Saints exercised heroic virtue in their earthly lives, and that virtue sprang forth from an identity rooted in Christ.  They understood who they were, and their humble obedience to the will of God won them a place around the throne of the Lamb.  Today is a good day to reflect on our own identity as Christians.  For, if our lives are rooted in Christ, then one day it will be our feast day too.

In the Gospel reading Jesus teaches us the beatitudes—the traits of a blessed person, or in other words, a Saint.  Today I’d like to focus on just the first beatitude:  Blessed are the poor in spirit.  When I was younger, I used to think this phrase meant that in order to be blessed, you had to be lacking in spirit, that is, timid and unassuming.  I always wondered why Jesus would say such a thing.  Jesus is bold figure—there’s nothing timid about him.  But being lacking in spirit is not at all what it means to be blessed, to be holy, to be a saint.

Saint Irenaeus, one of the Fathers of the Church from the 2nd century wrote, “the glory of God is man fully alive.”  When we think of someone who is fully alive, we think of someone with zeal, with drive, with fervor.  We think of a virtuous person, who may be quiet, or may be loud, but nevertheless is burning with charity and faith.  Not one who is timid and unassuming, like a wilting flower.  That’s not being fully alive.

So then, what does it mean to be poor in spirit?  To me, it makes more sense to say, “blessed are those who have a spirit of poverty.”  That is, even if you’re not actually poor, you can still be poor in spirit.

But, why would anyone desire to be poor?  Most of our days’ activities are ordered towards making sure we aren’t poor.  We go to school to have the knowledge we need to get a good job and provide for our families and ourselves.  We try our hardest to have some level of financial security.  It’s no surprise then, why the disciples were shocked when Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”[1]  It would seem that the rich are the ones who are blessed.

I invite you to imagine for a moment that you are poor.  Not just that you don’t have a flat-screen TV, but that you don’t have a home. In fact, you are so destitute that you have only the humble clothes on your back.  In particular, I think of all those people who have been affected by one of the many hurricanes this year.  Put yourself in their place.  Imagine, you are stripped of all the things you ordinarily use to define yourself.  No job, no car, no nice clothes, no purse, no shoes, no house, no land, no money in the bank.  You have nothing but your person.  You have your body, soul, intellect, and will, and that’s about it.  In this state, what would you say if someone asked you, “Who are you?”  Would you give them your name?  What else could you say?  You could say who you used to be, but right now, who are you?

Brothers and sisters, praise God, we have an answer to that question.  We have an identity, and that identity is rooted in Christ.  If we have been baptized in Christ, then we belong to God the Father as his adopted sons and daughters.  Our identity is that we are children of God.  “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.”[2]

As we heard in the first reading, God singles out those servants who are marked with his seal on their foreheads, and he instructs the angels to save them from the coming wrath.  Brothers and sisters, we are those servants.  We each received that sign at our baptism, when the minister traced the sign of the cross on our foreheads, claiming us for Christ.  Furthermore, at our baptism we wore a white garment—a precursor to the white robes we will wear in the kingdom heaven, before the throne of the Lamb, singing:  “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb.”[3]  It is the Lamb who tells us who we are.  It is no wonder then, why Christ would say, “blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”[4]  The man with a spirit of poverty has nothing distracting him from realizing his true identity.  He knows exactly who he is before God, and he receives his identity from God alone.  He is an adopted son; she is an adopted daughter.  And the Father welcomes his sons and daughters into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Brothers and sisters, do we fall for the trap of trying to define ourselves?  Do we define ourselves by our possessions, our friends, our position on the team, our height and weight, our girlfriend or boyfriend, our jobs, our political party, our children’s extracurricular activities, our Instagram photos, our video game avatar?  If all of that were taken away in an instant, could you say with confidence, “I am a child of the Most High God”?

Christian, you are marked with the seal of salvation!  You have worn and you will wear the white robe of the saints.  You belong to Christ.  Don’t let those other things define you, for those things are passing away.

[1] Mark 10:23

[2] 1 John 3:1

[3] Revelation 7:10

[4] Matthew 5:3