A personal reflection for All Saints’ Day
According to legend, John Bradford, a 16th century English reformer, destined to be imprisoned in the Tower of London and burned at the stake by Queen Mary Tudor, watching a group of prisoners being led to their executions, observed, “There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford.” Thereby, he gave to succeeding generations a succinct statement of acknowledgement that another’s misfortune, if not for divine blessing, could be one’s own. More particularly, that one’s providence is in God’s hands. More generally, that one’s fate, always subject to circumstance and chance, is not in one’s control.
Often my father, speaking of life’s travails, commented, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Later, as a student of scripture, I realized that Bradford, my father, and countless others had paraphrased Paul’s gratitude for having been called to be an apostle after having persecuted the followers of Jesus: “By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”
This spirit of righteous recognition is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
Today, according to the calendar of Western Christendom, is All Saints’ Day. “Saint” is a New Testament title for a Christian.
In Christian tradition, saints often are considered to be those like the first apostles who were martyred; though threatened with death, refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus. Yes, they and more are worthy of saintly honor. Yet I dare…do stand with them in saintly light because I, as they, am human. I, as they, am flawed. I, as they, am poor; impoverished in every way, except for being perfect in my imperfection. And I, as they, am one whom Jesus calls blessed!
Later, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” This is radical; as in the Latin radix, “root.” In a spiritual sense, meaning a return to the origin of things, going back to the way God intended from the dawn of creation. In an existential sense, meaning extreme; beyond the reach of reason, surpassing any sane expectation. In a word, crazy!
Yet Jesus’ declaration is a description of who a saint is and what a saint does. Of saints who, here and now, live and work to fulfill the prayer, Our Father…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Even more, Jesus’ declaration is a description of who God is, and, still more, the way God treats us. God loves us; even when we are enemies; whether unknowingly or intentionally opposing God’s will.
And, in a world continually rife with violence and in the American political scene sullied with the vilification of parties and the demonization of persons, Jesus’ declaration of saintly living stands in razor-sharp contrast.
And, on this All Saints’ Day, remembering those in ages past, here, by the grace of God, am I, a saint of God, who, in my day and time, is called to do God’s will and, thus, bequeath a legacy of righteousness for those to come.
© 2021 PRA
 John Bradford (1510–1555)
 1 Corinthians 15.10a
 Luke 6.20b
 For example, see Romans 1.7, 1 Corinthians 1.2, 2 Corinthians 1.1, Ephesians 1.1, Philippians 1.1, Colossians 1.2
 Luke 6.27b
#saintsofgod #thywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven #lovemyenemies #jesusteaching #godslove