Monday, October 26, 2020

The universal call to holiness is rooted in our universal call to sainthood.

With the approaching of 1 November each year, the Catholic Church celebrates the glorious solemnity of All Saints’ Day.  It serves to remind us of many things about our Catholic identity, and one of the most important being that all of us who are baptized into the faith are, without exception, called to sainthood.  


But this is poorly understood most of the time, because for many Catholics, sainthood is something that is reserved only for a very few people who have been specially graced by God to lead exemplary, heroic and faith-filled lives.


While it is true that compared to all of humanity that have been baptized since the founding of the Church, only relatively few have been formally canonized and officially given the title of Saint, it is not only those who have been canonized that are indeed saints. Few in the Church seem to understand that every person who has died and has been deemed worthy to enter into the eternal joy of heaven is a saint.  To be a saint is to have attained one’s ultimate goal in life.  To not be a saint is to have failed in life’s most important goal and aim.  Every one of life’s other goals literally pales in comparison to this one target and destination in life.  When well lived, all of one’s other goals in life serve to help one to reach this target and aim.  To be sure, there are many other projects, interests and pursuits that a person can have, from marrying a spouse, having and bringing up children, being sedulous in one’s work, building up of one’s career, or pursuing one’s hobbies and developing one’s skills.  


But if they serve to distract and side-track one’s goal of attaining heaven at the end of one’s earthly life, all these would have been lived and pursued in vain, because they would at best have been ends in themselves, and not a means to an end, especially if in pursuit of them one has made choices that ended up blurring the focus of heaven and the attainment of sanctity.


To only define saints as people who have been officially canonized by the Church is to somehow raise the bar so high that it may be something that is unthinkable and out of sight for many, leading many to think that this is an unreachable goal and at best, a daunting task. And this is a shame, because the aim of our lives is not to be canonized saints, though if that is your personal aim, it is a very commendable one, but to be saints nonetheless.  


But the bar is set within an attainable reach for many when we understand that it doesn’t mean that one is a saint only when there is a St. before your name, with a specific feast day on the liturgical calendar that mentions your name.  


If we understand that as long as one is in heaven, that one has attained sainthood, then it really does change things.  It makes what may have seemed to be an unrealizable reality become something that is actually within our reach.  


As long as we are willing to yield with humility to the will of God, which is that we respond lovingly to each invitation to love God and our fellow man, we are working our way toward sainthood. 


If you put serious thought into it, the reason your eyes are landing on this reflection right now and receiving these words of encouragement to want sainthood for yourself is God’s grace prompting you to want to desire heaven in a particularly focused and purpose-driven way. This is just one of the small ways that God invites every person to bear spiritual fruit in their lives.


Remember – the celebration of All Saints’ Day isn’t just for us to feel wistful about the great saints that have accomplished their highest goal in life, which is to attain the promises of heaven.  It is also a very strong reminder that all of us are called to the same lofty destiny and to keep walking the often narrow path that leads us there in life.

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