When I ask at Mass: “How many of you want to be a saint” very few hands go up. When I ask: “How many of you want to go to heaven” all hands go up. Either we don’t think we are worthy to be saints or we think it is ambitious to aspire to be a saint. Actually we all want to be saints because saints are the citizens of heaven and, therefore, if you want to go to heaven, you want to be a saint.
When we think of saints we think of people who are proclaimed saints by the Church and canonized in a big ceremony in St. Peter’s. But we also know people in our own lives who are saints. Perhaps a grandparent or parent, an aunt or uncle, a neighbor, a co-worker. We all know people who have lived a virtuous life. They weren’t perfect but they were filled with love. We admired them and remain grateful to them after they have died. So you don’t have to be perfect to be a saint. You have to be faithful to be a saint: faithful to using the gifts God gave you, faithful to living the Gospel way of Jesus Christ, faithful to the truth, honest and humble.
Admittedly this is a tall order but it is lived out over the course of a lifetime. The key to being a saint is to recognize that we need a Savior and we do not save ourselves. Indeed there is a God and I am not God. I am His creature, created out of love and sustained in existence each day by God’s love. The key to being a saint is to recognize one’s dependence upon God. Our self-sufficiency and tendency to individualism are obstacles to becoming a saint because it becomes all about me. It is not all about me; it is about us and our journeying together through this life to life on high with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of love.
The other obstacle to becoming a saint that is prevalent today is the tendency to think that this life is all there is. It is not. This life is but a preparation for eternal life with God. If we expect this life to meet all our needs, we will be disappointed. If we expect other people to take our loneliness away, we will smother the relationship. Saint Augustine said it well long ago: “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Do you want to be a saint? Then love passionately, compassionately and yet, with a gentle grasp on life. Do you want to get to heaven? Then embrace life and let go of life. Love deeply but freely. And trust in the promise of Jesus to live with Him forever.
Rev. James M. McNamara
PS: I look forward to seeing you in heaven because I hope to get there myself!