Opening Question: Were you named after a saint? If you were, do you know anything about this saint?
First Reading: Revelations 7:9-14
I saw a huge crowd. It was so large no one could count all the people in it. They came from every nation and people and tribe. They spoke different languages. They stood before God's throne and the Lamb. They were dressed in white robes and waved palm branches in their hands. They shouted, "The God who sits on his throne and his Lamb saved us!"
All the angels stood around God's throne, the elders, and the four living ones. They lay face down and worshiped God. "Amen. Praise, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might belong to our God forever! Amen,"
One of the elders spoke to me. "Hey, do you see these people who are dressed in white robes? Who are they and where do they come from?"
"Sir," I said. "You know better than I do."
"Yes," he said. "They are the people who survived the great Test. They have washed their robes and bleached them in the Blood of the Lamb."
Tony was excited. He got out of the car and ran up beside his Grandpa. "Are the Badgers going to win today, Grandpa?"
"I hope so, Tony. We've got great seats for the game," his Grandpa said.
Tony saw the lines form at the stadium gates. His eyes great wide. "Grandpa, how many people are here today?"
"I don't know, Tony. There are probably too many for me or you to count."
Tony and his Grandpa made their way through the gate and onto the escalator to the Plaza Section. At the top of the escalator, his Grandpa rechecked his tickets, then led Tony down a steep stairway. "Row sixteen, seats I and J," his Grandpa said to the stadium attendant. The attendant glanced at the tickets, pointed to the seats, and said something nice to Tony's Grandpa.
Tony and his Grandpa made their way down the aisle to their seats. Tony looked at the forest green sweater and black muffle he wore, then he gazed out at the crowd filling the stadium. "Look, Grandpa," Tony said, "everyone's dressed like us."
"Yeah, Tony, we're all dressed in the Badger's colors."
"Welcome to Badger Country." The announcer's voice boomed out of the public address system and echoed throughout the stadium. "Everyone now please stand for our national anthem."
The crowd rose together and snapped to attention for the "Stars Spangle Banner." Tony did his best to negotiate the highs and lows of the tune. A few times he hit a flat note. When the song finished, he roared with the rest of the crowd. Tony felt the applause give way to a foot-stomp cheer that shook the concrete floor he stood on. Tony joined in the stomping. Tony felt a pair of hands reach around him and pull him up.
"I want you to see the opening kick off," his Grandpa said.
"What?" Tony said. The stadium seemed engulfed in one continuous cheer.
Tony's Grandpa pointed to the field.
Tony screamed as the Badgers received the ball and ran it back for thirty yards. He looked around at everyone in the stands. His jar dropped. He had never seen so many people at one time in his life. They were all cheering for his football team.
Most people have experienced a large gathering. A regional football game, a convention, an outdoor concert. In these events, the people seem to share the same thoughts, to feel the same emotions, and to speak with one voice.
Imagine if God were present at an event like this. Imagine everyone gathered to worship God. Wouldn't this be just a bit like heaven?
Bridging Question: What makes someone a saint?
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw all the people, he went up a hill and sat down. His followers drew near. And Jesus taught them:
God blesses those with humble hearts. He rules over them now and forever!
God blesses the sad people. He will make them feel better!
God blesses those without power. He will give them a place in his land!
God blesses those who are eager to do what he wants. He will satisfy them!
God blesses those who forgive others. He will forgive them!
God blesses those who love him most of all. They will see him!
God blesses those who make peace. He will call them his children!
God blesses those who suffer because they follow him and try to do what is right. He rules over them now and forever!
God blesses you when people insult you, punish you, and spread lies about you, just because you follow me. After all, God's prophets suffered in the same way long before you were born. So, grin with a big smile! God will give you a huge gift in heaven!
One night Mark was playing with matches alone in his room. Suddenly, a lit match feel on the bed and light the bedspread on fire. Mark panicked and began to run around the house. Mark's father calmly entered the room and matted down the flames with another blanket.
While the fire ruined Mark's bed and blankets, the smoke from the fire ruined many of Mark's Play Station games and sports card collection. Mark's first thought was not for what he did, but how he was going to replace the stuff he lost from the smoke.
At school the next day, Daniel heard what happened to Mark. Daniel went up to Mark and offered to help. "You can borrow some of my games. And I have some spare baseball cards you can have." Daniel's reaction surprised Mark. For a moment, Mark wondered why Daniel cared about others.
Jesus took the story of Daniel and Mark one step further. The people who are saints, the ones who are truly blessed, truly happy, are those who give up things, like games, for the benefit of others. The truly unselfish people of the world make themselves poor and hungry and sad for others' benefit. The truly selfish people want to make themselves rich and fat and happy, even if others suffer.
Even if we are truly unselfish, not every one will like us. People will even hate us for reasons we will never understand. But God, the most important person we know, will love us. And because he loves us unselfishly, he wants us to love others the same way. When we do, we show others we are saints.
Closing Question: How can you be a saint? How can you help others? How can you help those who are crying or are not important? How can you help make peace with others? How can you follow God more closely?