Past sins are not an obstacle to sainthood. St. Paul was a persecutor of the early church, standing by and sanctioning the murder of Stephen. St. Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus following his arrest. St. Augustine is reported to have lived a rather hedonistic life, fathering a son from a woman he lived with for many years before he experienced his conversion.
Yet, all of them elected to change their ways and follow the Lord. All of them chose to give up following their own wills and seek God’s will instead. Sainthood is determined by our actions today, not yesterday.
It is not surprising that the Gospel reading selected by the Church for this past Sunday, All Saints Day, was the Beatitudes, for they are Jesus’ prescription for sainthood, as well as a roadmap for all of us in how we should live our lives. If we are meek and humble in spirit, mourn for our sins and the sins of others, show mercy, are pure in heart and hunger for righteousness, Jesus says we will be blessed. We will be comforted, shown mercy, see the face of God, and the kingdom of God will be ours. This is an offer we should not refuse.
Yet, it is our sinful nature, particularly pride and sloth, that war against the Beatitudes becoming the fabric for our daily choices. In our pride we seek to substitute our will for God’s. In our sloth we become indifferent to the needs of others and lose our passion to seek God in all things. Let me illustrate.
Last summer I took my name off a Saturday volunteers list for July and August in a Christian jail ministry in order to preserve the weekends for boating with family and friends. God might have worked out the schedule if I had let him, but I pre-empted the choice. I was neither seeking God nor asking what he wanted me to do in this matter.
I can relate to Paul’s statement that “What I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” (Rom.7:15) Living out the Beatitudes by our own will and determination is very difficult, but with God’s presence and grace through the power of the Holy Spirit, the saints show us it is possible.
While God is forgiving and merciful, his desire and call for us is neither casual nor trivial. Jesus said to the Church of Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15)
The last thing we should want is to become distasteful to Jesus.