Saturday, December 1, 2012

A saint, me?

Read I Thessalonians 3:12 – 4:2

When I was a child, I imagined sainthood to consist in some type of moral perfection. Saints, as they were presented to me, were men and women who had managed to avoid all sin, to live in perpetual prayer, to attain the pinnacle of all virtues. It seemed to me that being a saint was a heroic achievement that required immense sacrifice. I admired the saints, but I found them distant, nearly inhuman. Never would I have imagined myself being capable of such holiness.

Yet, Saint Paul tells us in today’s reading that we are all called to “blameless holiness” before God as we wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Are we being called to an impossible degree of moral perfection? Are we condemned to fail in a project that is beyond our capabilities?

It seems to me that the problem lies in a mistaken notion of holiness. We have developed a wrong idea of what it means to be a saint. Saint Paul himself puts us on the right track when he forwards his call to holiness with these words: “May the Lord give you a love which is evermore intense and overflowing.”

In other words, our degree of holiness does not depend on our moral perfection, but on the depth of our love. The more we love, the holier we are. Since God is love, we must conclude that God is truly the Holy One. This is why at Mass we acclaim God with the words from the book of Isaiah: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of hosts.”

Inasmuch as we are open to God’s love, inasmuch as we allow God’s love to flow through us out to others, we are saints. Holiness is the outward radiance of the love which is within us. Holiness is the exterior manifestation of an interior attitude, an attitude that is made up of equal parts of compassion, tenderness and care.

Yes indeed, we are all called to holiness, to be saints, since we are all made for love.