Called to Be Saints

Last year for the Solemnity of All Saints, I wrote on the first reading from Revelation 7, to which I referred again in the recent post on “lukewarm” Catholics. Recently Fr. James Martin drew attention to the saints, as he often does, in a short video examining the question of who and what is a saint. He points out that saints are not only those declared such officially by the Church, but include many more, both those we might have known personally and those who are nameless to us. He also adds that we are all called to be saints precisely by fulfilling who we are called to be by God.  It reminds me that the Apostle Paul calls all those who were members of the Church hagioi, which is Greek for “holy ones” or saints as it is most often translated into English. Everyone is indeed called to be “holy” and so called to be a “saint.” There is this tension in Paul’s letters in a number of different ways between the “imperative” and the “indicative”: in this case Paul states that we are indeed “saints” and also called to be “saints.” There is in Paul that sense of “already” and “not yet,” which the second reading from 1 John 3: 1-3 and the Gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12 also suggest.

For even those who are declared “saints,” either officially by the Church or by popular consent by all who meet them, are on earth far from heavenly perfection. John says that “we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” The description of God "as he is" includes the otherness of God which we can only mimic and which is known as holiness, yet we have this promise that “we will be like him.” Perhaps John’s own insights are based on the Beatitudes, for Jesus says in Matthew  that "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” and "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” In these two Beatitudes we have the same realities noted once again: those who are blessed are called children of God for they will see God. Holiness at its heart is to be more like God and ultimately to be with God.  


In the meantime, this side of heaven, Jesus has given us guidelines for holiness in the Beatitudes, to be peacemakers, to be pure in heart, to be meek, to be poor in spirit. We are to be holy, to be saints, because in doing so we become most fully who we are and most fully like God.

 John W. Martens

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Aloysia Moss
7 years ago
Marie and John , Where would somebody live that he / she might have to seek out persecution ?  I'm not trying to be paranoid here but anyone who makes the least attempt to be a disciple of Jesus will find no need to look for " persecution " .
Perhaps I'm thinking of challenges to ethical behavior :  in doing the right thing there will be no end of hostility , harsh judgment et al  from some fellow human being , sooner or later .
Aloysia Moss
7 years ago
Yes , John , that is what I was getting at  .  It is my understanding that the Beatitudes are a subject not often written about  ,  although I believe them to be at the heart of Jesus 's message .   Maybe their depth of wisdom is just too much for us mortals even if they are addressed to us  .  I'm considering Marie's observation of their being words of comfort and your thought that they can be cultivated .  Thanks .
Marie Rehbein
7 years ago
While the qualities in the beatitudes are indications of holiness, I wonder whether they are actually qualities to which one can aspire.  To me the words of the beatitudes are more words of comfort.  If you find yourself in the middle of some disagreement and trying to make peace between the parties, it will be difficult, so think of yourself as a child of God.  If you are poor in spirit (discouraged?), remember that the kingdom of heaven is yours, and so on. 
Marie Rehbein
7 years ago

That works for some of them, but I don't see it working for "blessed are the poor in spirit" and "blessed are those who mourn", for example.  It might also be a little odd to seek out persecution, don't you think?  I think that the beatitudes encourage people to put up with things they might otherwise question the wisdom of enduring.  I think that these things are likely to be encountered in ordinary life experiences, so that striving after them is not actually necessary.  We probably are not in great disagreement here.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Images: CNS/Composite: America
On Nov. 11, the Catholic Church lost a moral titan in the long struggle for racial equality and justice in the United States.
Shannen Dee WilliamsNovember 22, 2017
Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar military commander-in-chief, speaks during the Union Peace Conference Aug. 31 in Naypyitaw (CNS photo/Hein Htet, EPA).
Gen. Min Aung Hlaing wields great political power in the country.
Jacob Tremblay and Julia Roberts in “Wonder” (CNS photo/Lionsgate). 
‘Wonder’ is a tween melodrama on a mission of mercy.
Simcha FisherNovember 22, 2017
The change was in “no way” a response to the C.C.H.D.’s persistent online critics, an archdiocesan official says.
Kevin ClarkeNovember 22, 2017