What is a saint? Someone who is with God in heaven. But really a saint is someone who is holy. That is what “saint” means. It comes from the latin, “Sanctus” which is translated as “Holy” as in “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of hosts.” It is the way to describe God. Someone who is “holy” is like the Lord, like God. How do we become holy? How do we become like God? How do we become a saint? The saints are also called “the blessed”, and those who are in heaven are said to enjoy the “beatific” vision. St. John says in the second reading, “what we shall be (in heaven) has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” So, a saint is someone who has been blessed by God. That person has been “beatified.” Holiness is not based on what we do – how well we follow the rules – but it is a blessing or a gift from God. “Salvation” or entering the heavenly life is not something we earn or that comes from our efforts, but “salvation comes from our God” as those worshipping God cry out in John’s vision of heaven. The saints recognize that their saintliness comes from God. So the way to become a saint is to let God bless you and to seek the blessing of God.
The “Beatitudes” – the well-known proclamations of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount that we hear in today’s Gospel passage – describe people who have been blessed by God. And we don’t have to wait to until we get to heaven to be blessed by God. Heaven is not something totally in the future – for the next life, but Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” Jesus talks about these blessings in the present. So when we let God bless us, we get a taste of heaven now, and our hearts become prepared for heaven. If heaven is total happiness and fulfillment, then to be blessed by God is to experience some of the happiness of heaven now. Sometimes the “Beatitudes” are translated as “happy” instead of “blessed.” “Happy are the poor in spirit.” We are happy not when we get everything we want but when our life has meaning and purpose and direction. So we are most happy, in this life, when our life is directed to heaven. The Beatitudes describe people who are seeking heaven – the “race that seeks the face of God.”
Jesus brought heaven to earth. In Jesus, God has a face – we can see the face of God. And when the disciples saw him, they discovered the answer to what their hearts were longing for. They discovered who they were meant to be – Jesus revealed the meaning and purpose of their lives – the “way” to eternal life. When they were with Jesus, they were happy, and didn’t want to leave him. So they began to travel with him – to follow him, and, in this sharing of life with Jesus, their lives were changed. This was not like following a work-out routine or a program Jesus gave them – do this and avoid that. No, it was not through a conscious effort, but because of their esteem and affection for Jesus and an attraction to his person, they were moved to be like him, similar to a way a child absorbs and takes on the mannerisms of his father who he loves. And when they received the Holy Spirit, which is the life and love of God, at Pentecost, the life of Jesus took flesh in them. Jesus dwelled in them, and they became witnesses of heaven as well. They became saints.
Have you ever met a saint? Someone who, when you were in his or her presence, “magnetized” you – stopped you in your tracks – and made you think, “I want to be like him”? We are attracted to the saints because in them we see the kind of people we are made to be. We see in them the life of heaven – something beyond this life that has entered this life – something unforeseeable and unforeseen, that is nonetheless here. The saints are of all sorts and all kinds, but it is this presence of God that they bear that they all have in common. The call to sainthood is there for all of us. And we have been given the gift of his life though the sacraments. We just have to seek him – to be in touch with the desire of our heart – and ask to see his face. And then become friends with the saints. Tell Jesus you want to see him and that you want to be a saint. He will show you the way by the saints he puts into your life.