Sunday reflection

Reflection for All Saints’ Day
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…….” – Jesus, in St Matthew 5:1-12, NIV.

Santa Claus travels all around the world. Is he at risk of transmitting the virus and is there a risk for Santa Claus himself? He’s not exactly thin – if he were having a medical exam he would be considered to be clinically obese. That puts him at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure so if he were to catch Covid then he would be at risk of getting a very serious version of it.” 
Prof. Emer Shelly, Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Ireland. 

“Just for the record, I don’t have Type 2 diabetes. Neither can I catch or pass Coronavirus during my delivery.” Statement from Santa Claus.
A lot of people think that Santa Claus is a fictional character but he’s actually based on the real Bishop of Myra who died in 343 AD and was known for leaving anonymous gifts for the poor and giving bags of money to the father of three girls so that he could pay the dowry then necessary for each of them. The custom of giving presents and chocolate coins developed from this as well as his name, which came from the Dutch Sinterklaas and the German Sankt Niklaus. His day is December 6th and his originally green outfit became red and white when a certain fizzy drink manufacturer changed it to fit with the colours of their cans. Clement Moore’s poem “‘Twas the night before Christmas” introduced reindeer as the means of transport and nowadays Santa is big business with comments such as those above receiving serious feedback in the social and economic repercussions of the pandemic. The grain of initial truth in the life of an actual saint became a legend as fact became entwined with fiction – and this didn’t only happen with Santa Claus but with many saints, Melangell amongst them.
When the eighteenth century traveller Thomas Pennant visited her valley, he added to Melangell’s story the suggestion that the horn of the huntsman would not sound when he tried to blow it to encourage the hounds and that the horn stuck to his lips. A saint by public acclaim due to her life of prayer, healing and compassion for those around her, the details of Melangell’s life are scarce but the oral tradition was strong and she has become one of those shadowy figures whose lives and examples have become foundation stones of the faith that has been passed on to us now.
Today, All Saints’ Day in the time to remember all those, known and unknown, seen and unseen, who have witnessed to the reality of the love of God and the power of hope in times of trial. That is so much needed as the pandemic continues and Jesus speaks of this reality in today’s Gospel, known as the Beatitudes and sometimes called the attitudes for being. In the face of so much suffering, death and grief being caused by Coronavirus, it almost sounds callous to suggest that those who mourn will be comforted. As yet another family of refugees so recently drowned in the channel, how can it be said that the meek will inherit the earth? 
However, the Beatitudes don’t deny the pain of human tragedy – rather, Jesus lives out the truth of what he proclaims during his life by bringing comfort to those who need it, showing mercy, being a peacemaker rather than responding with violence when he meets it and as death is overcome through the resurrection. In this way, human life here on earth becomes irradiated with heaven now – it becomes real and not just anticipated when seen in the lives of those also choosing to live in this way. The Beatitudes are complicated and hard to live out but Jesus’ own life and attitudes to what was happening around him shows that it is possible. The saints have shown us down the years that his example can inspire us to live in that hopeful way too and, in the face of Covid-19, now is the time for showing and practising the faith they have passed on to us so that we can also know the reality of its truth and power – demanding though that is. 
Through the example of Jesus, the actual lives of the saints and the courage we need to show in the ongoing challenges before us all, may God’s kingdom come and God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. 
With my prayers,
Guardian of St Melangell’s Shrine Church.