Every Day Saints
It is a good thing to have heroes to look up to. The great saints are just that for us. They show us, in all of their unique humanity, the kinds of things that we human beings are capable of when we believe in God and translate that belief into our lives. Those that we recognize as saints are recognized as such because they have, indeed, lived heroic lives, many of them having experienced great trials and tribulations, even persecutions and death because they counted their relationship to God more important than any earthly fears or desires. It is good to look to these heroes to find models and inspiration for our own lives. But for all those who are recognized as great saints there are many more who are just as saintly, but who will never be known to the world, because their lives are lived out in the ordinariness of everyday life.
Someone once said that 99% of us are just ordinary folks. We will never become ‘famous’ in the worldly sense of that word. We live out our lives anonymously, known only by our immediate family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Though we are ‘ordinary,’ just part of the common mass of humanity, Jesus, by his life and his words, invites us in our ordinariness, to be extraordinarily compassionate, generous, merciful, forgiving, hospitable, friendly, and loving to all of those other ‘ordinary’ people we are tied to intimately, and all those we encounter only casually. Being famous is not what is important. Being extraordinarily loving out of our ordinariness, in submission to Jesus’ last commandment to us, is how we, as forgiven and graced Christian people, become everyday saints.
Think about it. Are there not individuals you have known, or know presently, who by their love, inspire us to see the world a little less cynically? Have we not seen people who live humbly, without pretense, who serve others simply and tenderly, without expecting anything in return? They do not draw attention to themselves, or seek recognition and rewards. Indeed, they are embarrassed when we praise them. But we know that our own lives have been touched and changed even by witnessing their modest, generous, even quietly courageous ‘saintly’ behavior.
Maybe it is a mother who cares for her children with understanding, heroic patience, and love, even in the midst of the usual chaos that can occur during the day, and still has time to listen to someone else’s frustrations and fears, without feeling put upon, or used, and she does all of this with genuine joy. How is one able to do all of this with such genuine joy without God? A joy like this can only come from God. When one understands that everything is pure gift from God, one is able to do these things out of thanksgiving and faith, rather than out of mere duty, even when times get tough, because one knows that God will be with one through it all. Or, maybe it is a father who works two jobs in order to pay the bills, to keep the family fed, clothed, and housed, who comes home weary from his labors, but willingly gets down on the floor and plays with his children, and listens to their innocent stories with real attention and interest, and helps his wife with the household chores, because he knows how hard she has worked all day, caring for their children.
How does one come to this maturity without a rich and active prayer life? When one has developed an intimate relationship with Christ, and made that relationship the driving force in one’s life, then one is no longer a slave to the impish and prideful demands of the ego. Rather, one is free to love now as Jesus loved. This is what a saint does. It is this attitude of a saint that God recognizes and supports with all the graces one needs to give one’s time, one’s talent, one’s treasure, and one’s love to others, even when one thinks or feels that there is ʺno more gas in the tank.ʺ In truth, it is this seemingly ʺordinaryʺ love that gives our lives their truest meaning and purpose.
In the epistles, Peter and Paul are always reminding us that we are all called to be saints, to greet each other as such, that in being obedient to the will of God, not ashamed of the gospel, we will be moved by the good news to be Christ’s happy disciples in the world. Some will see this and be drawn to it. But there are others who have chosen to take ʺwiderʺ paths, who will be threatened by our ordinary behavior and they will ridicule it, and even hate it. So be it. We have given ourselves to something greater than this world. When we have the courage of saints, fueled and fired by the love of God, we will be enabled to do all things out of joy in His name.
This real love is also an inexhaustible resource. It is an infinite capacity in us, as it comes from God. Indeed, this love is the very thing that empowers us, in our ordinariness, to be extraordinarily good in the face of all that the world can throw at us. It is through our love of God, our relationship to Jesus, our willingness to listen to and to call on the Holy Spirit, that we are given the graces to be every day saints in the world. It is by loving God first with all of our heart, with all of our mind, with all of our soul, and with all of our strength, that we are enabled to love others as he loves us. It is our love of God that moves us to be Christ to one another in the ordinariness of our everyday lives. If we keep God in our hearts; if we keep Jesus in our minds; if we understand our souls to be vessels of the Holy Spirit, then God will give us the grace to be saints in this world. He will be with us in all that we do. The ultimate reality is that saints are ʺordinaryʺ in heaven. It is only in this world that saintly behavior is seen as extraordinary.