What Makes a Saint
The ghouls and goblins of All Hallow’s Eve have gone to their rest for another year and now, as we enter the dawn of All Saint’s Day, we remember all those men and women, known and unknown, who are enjoying the light of heaven in the presence of their creator.
Our readings today begin with this very image from the book of Revelation. A vision revealed to the apostle John depicts the righteous ones in heaven who have been faithful through the persecution of the Christians now sharing the reward of a job well done, what amounts to a brief description of paradise. These “Saints” are vast in number, rich in diversity and triumphant in their praise of God.
Contrast this with the passage from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus describes the favoured position not of those experiencing the glory of heaven but, rather; those who mourn, those who are humble, those who are hungry and thirsty. These “Anawim” are anything by triumphant in their faith and instead reflect a vulnerability that is completely reliant on the mercy and strength of God. Thus we have two very different images of sanctity.
Add to this a third perspective from the first letter of John where we are described as being like God’s children because, in fact, that is what we are. Not only that but our calling is to be like God, to be as God is when we come at last to see God face to face. This view describes our holiness, our sanctity as a birthright if only we see and grasp our true identity.
There we have three images of sainthood for us to ponder. When we think of saints, we might form a picture of men and women who lived extraordinary and near impossible lives. This is not really so. Saints are people just like us. They lived ordinary lives and struggled with ordinary problems. What made them saints was not their unblemished lives but their clear and unwavering focus on God and His people and their daily attempts to grow in faith, virtue and goodness with God’s help.
The Saints show us that we do not have to go far to find the path to holiness. It runs right through the circumstances of our daily lives. They teach us in words and actions how to look beyond human sins and weaknesses and see the Holy Spirit at work, they show us that sainthood is more attainable than we think. They deal with others gently rather than violently, they share generously, they forgive others their failings, they suffer silently and often put others before themselves. Humility, willingness to work for justice, forgiveness and peaceful solutions are qualities they display.
How quick we are to jump at putting on the costume of the devil on Halloween night. Perhaps today we can clothe ourselves in the garment of a Saint and try it on for size.