Not Apart from Us

Friday, November 1, 2013 – Feast of All Saints

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 111 (morning) // 112 (evening)

2 Esdras 2:42-47

Hebrews 11:32-12:2

Our second reading today opens with a list of heroes and their respective heroic deeds. The catalogue of the heroically faithful includes Gideon, Samson, David, and the prophets. Many of them did amazing things. Others of them suffered tremendously. But then Paul seems to undercut all of their achievements by announcing that none of them received “what was promised.” They did a commendable job, but they didn’t receive the greatest reward.

Why not? Because the fulfillment of their efforts and their hope could not possibly arrive in one lifetime. Paul explains that God withheld what was promised “so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” In other words, they didn’t earn individual rewards; they had to wait for and share with the generations who came after them.

The saints cannot fulfill their mission or receive their reward without us. Our connection to them and to their courage and compassion in all times and places is the true source of their perfection. Ultimately, these saints form not a list of individuals, but an undifferentiated cloud that hovers around us and holds us in the reign of God.

The twelfth-century Cistercian abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, warns us about overlooking the eager desire of all the saints for us to join them: “The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.” Sometimes, the saints’ seemingly unattainable heroism or simply the intervening centuries keep us at a distance.

But today, let’s try to feel the desire that all saints have for us to share their company and fulfill their desires for God’s reign on earth. That is their reward. Surely they died trusting that, in Christ, they would never be apart from us.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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