Jesus Redefines Sainthood
In the past, I have emphasized the all in All Saints Day. Not this year. There isn’t an ‘all’ in Jesus’ definition of saint. In this Saturday’s holiday lection, Jesus begins his sermon on the mount with a series of blessings (Matthew 5:1-12). Each of these Beatitudes are a reversal in our definition of saint. Those with impoverished faith are sanctified. The theologically trained go unnoticed. The meek are praised and the ambitious considered un-saintly. Mourning counts for something. The bad theology that considers our misfortunes to be punishments for being less than perfect, is thrown in the trash bin. The messy and politically unappreciated work of peacemaking is prized. In short, Jesus redefines the celebration we plan for this weekend.
This is the great surprise. Take a closer look at the narratives of people who you admire. It’s not the ones who wisely avoided trouble and paid their bills always on time, that are the saints. It is the family who has suffered the heartbreak of an early death, a childhood illness, or the loss of their home through foreclosure. They may not be articulate about their religion, but they are the real saints.
What if we were to intentionally bless the people that Jesus blesses? Our default setting (or culture) is to bless the ambitious, the financially savvy, the lucky, the young, and the beautiful. What if we call ‘saint,’ those in whom we see a purity of heart? What if we turn to those who mourn and ask them for their wisdom? What if we honor peace makers as the real heroes of our society? What if we bless and pray with those who are honest about their spiritual poverty? Then, we might begin to get what Jesus preaches about on the mountain.