Has anyone here got a favourite saint? Well, I have two favourite saints - Andrew and of course Laurence. I had to say that didn’t I? But I also like some of the more unusual or bizarre saints, people like St. Jacqueline who decided that she was called to live in a tree from where she regularly rebuked Pope Innocent III for his wickedness, or St Sithney who believed that God had asked him if he’d mind being the patron saint of dogs and spent the rest of his life dressed up as a dog.
But seriously, why bother? Why bother celebrating and remembering the Saints? Well apart from the fact that some of them are really amusing they help bring the Christian story to life. Saints are animators of the gospel. Yes, I know we have the official saints whose status is granted by the Pope after a period of beatification, but we also have the broader ‘communion of saints', those inhabitants of heaven who have helped nurture and shape the life of faith. Saints are people who inspired by the gospel stories and the person of Jesus leave their mark. Saints are people who incorporate God’s story into their own life story. Saints are people who contemplate the gospel truths, exercise compassion towards others and act with courage.
We all have the opportunity to become saints but more importantly we all have the opportunity to shape an earthly communion of saints; a communion which provides an effective witness to our Christian faith. That’s one of the reasons I like the concept of ‘All Saints’; it reminds us that our witness is to be collective as well as personal.
So how do we mature towards sainthood? I would like to suggest that it is through opening ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit within us and by praying, in the words of the reading from 1 John, that we may one day ‘be like him;’ Jesus. And, it is also through contemplating the words of Scripture, perhaps especially the words of the Beatitudes, that we have heard in the reading from Matthew’s gospel. These are verses that Bishop Steven would like the diocese to contemplate and digest. He believes, and I agree with him, that if we can take the beatitudes to heart we will become a more Christlike church. We will become a more holy, or saintly, church. And, it is through sharing in the Eucharist. It is through sharing in the Eucharist that we become one body.
Prayer, scripture, Eucharist. As I said last week these three are our spiritual nutrients. If we engage with these three with open hearts and minds we will grow into the likeness of Jesus. That’s the genius of Christianity. We need to be as Saints in the world today. The future of the church depends on ordinary people just like you and me opening ourselves up the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
Can I ask you to take the pew sheet home with you and reflect on today’s readings each and every day and take them to heart? These readings are too precious just to be Sunday readings. They point us in the direction of becoming a more Christlike church, and that, in a nutshell is our mission.