BECOMING A SAINT
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12
A saint is person who is consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious and set apart. A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. Saint(s) are understood in two different ways: Surface and Deeper understandings.
On the surface level, “Saints” refer to the body of Christ or Christians. For example, in Acts 9:13, Simon says, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.” Here, saints refer to all the Christians at Jerusalem, not to a special group of Christians. The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers. Thus, the Scripture is clear that all Christians are saints and the Catechism of the Catholic Church corroborates this when it says that the Church is the assembly of all the saints (CCC 946).
Beyond the above level of understanding the Catholic Church gives us a deeper understanding of who the saints are. In Catholic theology, saints are a special class of believers who have been canonized. Canonization is the process by which the Catholic Church confers sainthood upon a person based on that person’s special deeds. The first canonization was done by Christ himself when he said in Luke 23:43 “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Particular canonized saint(s) are celebrated during the liturgical year; while other holy men and women that were not canonized are celebrated on a day like this. Pope Urban IV instituted the Solemnity of All Saints to supply any deficiencies in the Faithfull’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the liturgical year. Thus, November first every year became a day set aside to celebrate all the Saints.
The Catholic Church teaches that a “saint” is anyone in heaven, whether recognized on Earth or not, who according to Heb.12:1 form the “great cloud of witnesses”. These according to 2 Tim.1:5 “may include our own fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers or other loved ones” who may have not always lived perfect lives but “amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord”.
Today’s first reading buttresses the above point futher. It speaks of a great multitude that no one could count who have died and are now radiant in the presence of God in heaven. They are radiant because their robes have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Rev. 7:14 describes the saints as those who have come out of the great ordeal; those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. We are humans; we go through do much ordeals, we cannot become saints’ without scars and so we must wash. No Christian is clean without washing. In baptism we are washed and we put on the garment of Christ; in confession we wash ourselves free from all sins in order to sustain the life of Christ we have received. Therefore, we must learn to wash always to obtain eternal sainthood.
Again, Rev. 7:3 says the saints are those who have been “sealed”. Things sealed belong to the one who sealed them. A letter sealed or signed belonged to the one who signed it. The saints have been sealed. They belong to God. John 6:27 says that Christ himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal. 2Cor.1:21-22 makes us to understand that a seal has been laid on us and the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a guarantee. We have been sealed in baptism; we belong to God, we are God’s property so to say, and our place is in heaven.
Therefore, if so many have become saints why can’t we? The saints were humans like us; same weaknesses, inclinations and passionate desires. We too can become saints if we truly want to be. In line with this, today’s psalm presents us with a question and an answer. Ps 24:3-4 “Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The answer is; “The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things and who has not sworn so as to deceive his neighbour” A man who loves his neighbour will not devise means to deceive his neighbour. A Christian who loves his neighbour will work with him with clean hands and pure hearts. If we must ascend the Lord’s holy place it must be with clean hands and pure hearts.
Similarly, the gospel says that the pure in heart shall see God. Beloved, only the pure in heart shall see God. Without holiness no one can see God. In addition, the gospel gives us the beatitude. The beatitude is Christ’s commentary on our attitude. It is the behaviour we must imbibe if we desire be saints. Beloved in Christ, attitude is everything. If we can change our attitude there is every possibility that we shall be numbered among the saints.
Finally, the beatitude also reminds us that no matter how difficult life may be we should have faith in God and live out the Gospel. The saints are those who went through dungeon and sword; fire and heat; yet they persevered. We cannot become saints if we cannot die to the flesh; if we are not ready to sacrifice pleasure for his good measure; we cannot become saints; if at the face of little things we shiver, tumble, crumble and fall, we can’t make it. Therefore, we must learn the ways of perseverance. Saints must say to themselves that no matter the persecution, no matter the suffering we shall not deny our God. May we find the grace to remain steadfast through Christ our Lord. Amen.
LET US PRAY
Almighty ever-living God, by whose gift we venerate in one celebration the merits of all the Saints, bestow on us, we pray, through the prayers of so many intercessors, an abundance of the reconciliation with you for which we earnestly long. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. AMEN.