A father was showing his son the stained glass windows in their church. He pointed to one of the windows and said it was a picture of a saint. Then he asked him: “Son, can you tell me what a saint is?”
The little fellow looked at the window and said: “I know – a saint is someone that the sun shines through.” And he was right. A saint is someone that the Son – the Son of God – shines through.
Today we celebrate the feast of All of the Saints in the kingdom of heaven. Very often when we hear the word “saint” with think of those holy people who have been canonized – that we know for sure are in heaven – and they have a special feast day. We think of people like the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Teresa., Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II.
But today is the feast day of all of the people who were God’s friends here on earth and now live with God forever in the happiness of heaven. They were people like you and me. They loved God and they loved their neighbor. They were sorry for their sins and, with God’s grace, they tried to do better. They tried to be like Jesus – and they let the light of Jesus shine through their lives.
I think of all of the good, holy people that I have known in life who have since died – people like my parents and grandparents, priests and sisters that I have known, teachers that I had in school, kind neighbors, parishioners whose funerals I have celebrated. I think of all of those people who lived as friends of God and who are now with God in heaven.
Do you want to be a saint? I hope so. God has created every single one of us to be ‘the best versions of ourselves” – which is another way of saying that God has called us to be saints. God gives us the grace to be saints. But God does not force us to be good.
All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to become one. All it takes is for us to allow God to make us what He has created us to be. All that we have to do is let God take over our lives. In the words of that Army recruiting ad: “Be all that you can be.” Be a saint!
If anybody wonders what God expects of us, Matthew’s Gospel today is a helpful “how-to guide.” We know it as the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are…” it begins. With those two words, Jesus gives us a beautiful instruction on how to live the life of a saint.
Pope Benedict takes this one step further in his book, Jesus of Nazareth. The pope says that the Beatitudes are a self-portrait of Jesus. And in acting like Jesus, we become like Jesus.
To be poor in spirit, to be meek, to be merciful.
To hunger and thirst for what is right.
To be clean of heart and to make peace.
There are some phenomenal stories in the lives of the saints that we read – like Saint John the Baptist and Saint Paul and Saint Joan of Arc and Saint Clare. But there are countless stories – millions throughout the centuries – that we don’t read about. They are the anonymous saints who went about their daily lives doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. They were people very much like you and me.
What does it take to join them? With God’s grace, all you really need is to want to be a saint – to live like Jesus – and God will do all of the rest.
What is a saint? “A saint is someone that the Son – the Son of God – shines through.” That little boy had it right.