The feast of All Saints falls on Sunday this year, and there will be the usual struggle to explain what a saint is, and who is eligible to be one. The canonization of saints in the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, is the process of recognizing that someone, now deceased, is in such full communion with God that God’s blessings flow through them into the lives of people yet living. It’s one way of understanding sainthood.
It may not be far off. Consider the prayers of intercession most of us offer for people in need. Properly understood, I think they become conduits through which God’s blessings flow into the lives of those for whom we pray, although they can become clogged with instructions to God about the kind of blessings desired, which, I suspect is often the case. But prayers of intercession offered in a state of full communion with God are free of such clogs, and perhaps the process of canonizing saints, as Catholics do, is a way of discerning whether one has achieved such a state. Perhaps. I fear that too often it turns canonized saints into wish granting genies, each with their own specialty.
The prayers of intercession you and I offer are also conduits for God’s blessings to flow into the lives of those for whom we pray, if we don’t clog them up with too many terms and conditions we want God to meet. We become more open, less clogged conduits when we are in deeper communion with God, accomplished by surrendering some of our ego to more willingly follow on the path Christ has set before us. It means each of us is capable of some degree of sainthood, whether canonized or not.
My denomination, Episcopal, recognizes the traditional saints, but it also recognizes persons whose lives have helped others along their journey in faith in ways that can become models for you and me. No miracles are required, and the brokenness of saintly lives is freely admitted. Somewhere in each saintly but broken life lived a commitment to following Jesus that shined a greater light on the path you and I are trying to follow.
That may be all well and good, but what does it have to do with ordinary people living ordinary lives who wonder what are the signposts along the path of following Jesus? In other words, in practical every day language, what is the saintly path for ordinary people muddling through life? Is it possible to walk on it and also be a real 21st century person just trying to get by one day at a time?
Well, glad you asked, because Jesus gave us a common sense answer for ordinary daily living. It begins with the familiar beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus was not talking about some blessed others who are most certainly not plain old ordinary you and me. The message is plain. If you want to be among the blessed, among those serving as conduits of God’s abundant blessings in the lives of others, then here are the signposts along the way.
Be a blessing to those who are poor in spirit, or just plain poor.
Mourn for this fallen world, and for your part in it.
Be meek, which means be so confident in who you are as a child of God that you have no need to lord it over or be subservient to others.
Hunger and thirst for righteousness (justice).
Be pure in heart: be honest with yourself and others.
Be a peacemaker.
Be courageously willing to be persecuted for Christ’s sake.
Do these things as you are able and God’s blessings will flow through your prayers and deeds into the lives of others. You will become somebody’s saint.