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For all the saints

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Matthew 5. 11

Today is All Saints Day. It is also International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. There is a link, although it might not be immediately obvious. For many, saints are figures from the past who have been assigned an ecclesiastical pedestal because of their piety, rendering them worthy of respect, even veneration, by their less worthy successors - ie us!

As far as I am aware, the word translated "saint" (hagios) does not appear in the Gospels, though it occurs frequently in the letters of Paul and John's Revelation. Here it refers to all who put their trust in Jesus and are therefore "sanctified", even though remaining sinners. Among the marks of sanctification, or true discipleship, is that we suffer with Christ. During his earthly ministry, society misunderstood Jesus and therefore mistreated him and so those who follow him can expect the same in our own contexts. Jesus makes that clear in his Sermon on the Mount, from which the quotation at the top of this post is taken.

We get away lightly in communities which are Christian or post-Christian but, if we take the trouble to learn about the reality of life for our sisters and brothers in countries which are either atheistic or dominated by a different religious tradition, then we shall realise both how fortunate we are and how real persecution still is for so many contemporary saints. And hence the connection between All Saints Day and the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Our initial response is laid out for us: pray, on behalf of our suffering fellow saints. And we can take comfort that neither they nor we are alone, for the quotation from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount continues: "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

So pray and be blessed!



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