Readings: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12a
I grew up in a religious culture that often asked, “How does one become a saint?” The presupposition was that there was a procedure that could produce that effect. The question was abstract and generalized. I believe that the New Testament asks a very different question: “Who is a saint?” The answer is concrete and personal.
According to Saint Paul, all those baptized in Christ are the saints, imperfect as we are.
That’s not getting off easy; there’s no method for becoming a saint and its not our accomplishment. And when we’re one of the saints, we’re accountable for living up to our calling. Remember how Saint Paul badgers the saints in Corinth!
There’s another answer to “Who is a saint?” We hear it in today’s Gospel. When we see someone acting in a way that illustrates the Beatitudes, we are looking at a saint.
I hope you find that as disturbing as I do.
Growing up, I remember the Beatitudes embroidered as samplers, framed as plaques, decaled on plates or printed on cards. Perhaps that was an attempt to domesticate them and comfort us. But is there anything comforting about being poor or mournful or meek? It’s frustrating to hunger for justice and demanding to be merciful or single-minded. It’s as dangerous to negotiate peace as it is to be persecuted. Do you really want to be insulted or accused falsely?
All the benefits of such choices are in the future. Today Jesus would win no award as a project strategist: this is no way to motivate his people.
But something else disturbs me. I know people who exemplify the Beatitudes. I hope you know them, too. They’re ordinary, unpretentious people struggling to live.
Their lives say, this is possible. It would cost me, but I could do this.
So why don’t I?