BLOG 11/1/15. THE SAINTS YOU WILL MEET ARE USUALLY LITTLE PEOPLE IN VERY MODEST CIRCUMSTANCES
Let me take one more crack at the celebration of All Saints Day here on this November 1, 2015. As I have related in my previous blog, I find All Saints Day a wholesome occasion to stop and think of all of the real people who have blessed my life as a follower of Jesus, and who have been instrumental in forming my life as such. In the Roman Catholic tradition, to become a saint is to fulfill certain remarkable criteria, which sets some apart as something of a ‘super-Christian.’ But according to New Testament teachings all of those who have responded to the life and teachings of Jesus, and have owned him as God’s Son, and as Lord, are: saints (cf. I Corinthians 1:1-3).
The vast majority of saints are little people, people who live out their calling by Christ in modest, non-glamorous circumstances and so demonstrate their role as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It is not the grandiose figures, or the super-star Christian figures, or the church professionals, or the television preachers, . . . or even Pope Francis, or Billy Graham . . . that you and I know. Rather, it is modest believers who take Jesus Christ seriously, who have his teachings embedded in them and forming their daily behavior. “He who has these teachings of mine and does them,” Jesus said, are his true disciples/saints.
Our Latin American Christian friends have used the word: orthopraxis, or the ‘doing’ of the teachings of Jesus that is effective in communicating the message of God’s love. Paul gives us the quintessential rule for orthopraxis: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. He humbled himself …” (Philippians 2:5-8). There’s your definition of sainthood. It is such folk, who have this mind in them, that are the ‘saints’ whom you and I will meet in the ordinary routines of everyday.
One has only to consider those twelve that Jesus chose to be his primary disciples. They are an unlikely lot, and though they stumbled and struggled with the demands of Jesus’ calling, they became to primary initiators of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. But then, stop and think about the implications of the beginnings of the Christian church, what is not written but is obvious. There were only twelve apostles at the start, but within a very short time the thrilling news of Jesus Christ has called forth a huge body of believers, and “the word went everywhere” so that even previously hostile personalities were profoundly converted. The message permeated the empire through little people who were God’s saints. The followers of Jesus were salt and light where they were, where they lived, in often humanly impossible circumstances. Grassroots saints.
Jesus said that he who would be great among his followers must be servant of all. Saints are servants. Saints are self-effacing and modest. Saints are the embodiment of love and caring. Saints are those who do not seek their own, but the welfare of others. Saints display the image of God in their very human lives.
Saints are not those ostensible spokespersons, who seek popular acclaim, … or ‘church professionals’/’clergy’ all vested and collared. Saints are those communicators of the new life in Christ, who in the words of Pope Francis, “smell like the sheep.” They are those who incarnationally demonstrate the nature of God in ordinary places of daily existence. And, note, since we are all “a royal priesthood, and a holy nation” we should be tuned-in to those around us, and Christ to one another. That’s real sainthood.
So on this All Saints Day, accept again the baptismal vows that you took that renounce the darkness and give yourself to be a faithful disciple, i.e., a ‘saint’ in the vicissitudes of your own daily life, … not somewhere else, but here and now. Salt and light in this needy world.