Last year for the Solemnity of All Saints, I wrote on the first reading from Revelation 7, to which I referred again in the recent post on “lukewarm” Catholics. Recently Fr. James Martin drew attention to the saints, as he often does, in a short video examining the question of who and what is a saint. He points out that saints are not only those declared such officially by the Church, but include many more, both those we might have known personally and those who are nameless to us. He also adds that we are all called to be saints precisely by fulfilling who we are called to be by God. It reminds me that the Apostle Paul calls all those who were members of the Church hagioi, which is Greek for “holy ones” or saints as it is most often translated into English. Everyone is indeed called to be “holy” and so called to be a “saint.” There is this tension in Paul’s letters in a number of different ways between the “imperative” and the “indicative”: in this case Paul states that we are indeed “saints” and also called to be “saints.” There is in Paul that sense of “already” and “not yet,” which the second reading from 1 John 3: 1-3 and the Gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12 also suggest.
For even those who are declared “saints,” either officially by the Church or by popular consent by all who meet them, are on earth far from heavenly perfection. John says that “we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” The description of God "as he is" includes the otherness of God which we can only mimic and which is known as holiness, yet we have this promise that “we will be like him.” Perhaps John’s own insights are based on the Beatitudes, for Jesus says in Matthew that "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” and "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” In these two Beatitudes we have the same realities noted once again: those who are blessed are called children of God for they will see God. Holiness at its heart is to be more like God and ultimately to be with God.
In the meantime, this side of heaven, Jesus has given us guidelines for holiness in the Beatitudes, to be peacemakers, to be pure in heart, to be meek, to be poor in spirit. We are to be holy, to be saints, because in doing so we become most fully who we are and most fully like God.
John W. Martens