Sunday, May 22, 2005

To Be in that Number

All Saints Day is a movable feast on the Byzantine liturgical calendar. In fact, this year it is celebrated today. This feast always falls on the Sunday after Pentecost. Why is that? I think it is because the desired fruit of Pentecost is: saints! The Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify those for whom Christ died, to enlighten and strengthen them and to lead them on the path of holiness. The work of the Holy Spirit is saint-making, and we are called to co-operate in the process.

I think it was Leon Bloy who said that the only real tragedy for a Christian is not to become a saint. But striving for sanctity seems not to be fashionable these days, even among Christians. People seem almost to take pride in saying, “I’m no saint!” as they justify their favorite bad habit.

Perhaps, though, we should not speak of striving for sanctity so much as simply seeking God and the knowledge of his will. Trying to be holy has pitfalls of its own, and sometimes what people really are striving for is the appearance of holiness, or the reputation of holiness, or the satisfaction of performing acts that they believe make them holy. But to become saints we have to forget ourselves altogether and simply turn to God. If God is everything to us, then self-satisfaction or affirmation from others will not be of interest to us. Holiness “happens” all by itself as we give of ourselves without counting the cost (or the “merits”). Perhaps we should rather say that God Himself sanctifies us, unbeknown to us, as we surrender ourselves consistently to his will.

On the Byzantine calendar, the Gospel reading is a selection of passages from St Matthew. They indicate that the path to holiness is that of the Cross, of loving Christ above all others, and of sacrificing everything in order to recover it a hundredfold, radiantly transformed, in the Kingdom of Heaven. What is the meaning of your life? What do you want to see when you look back on your life? What do you hope for as you cross the threshold of eternity? Now is the time to think about sanctity, to make choices that correspond to the will of God, to ensure that nothing is more important to you than to love and serve your Lord.

If you’re no saint, then it’s high time to do something about it! Why be content with mediocrity? Let grace be grace, and decide to let it change you, to lift you to a higher level of thought, action, and prayer. You may at length discover that you are marching in with the saints.