By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, November 2, 2015

Saints ... In Progress

That's us. Or should be. Saints in progress. On Sunday the Church marked the Solemnity of All Saints. This celebration reminds us that the call to holiness - to sainthood - is universal, addressed to all. When we examine our lives honestly and humbly, we can wonder if sainthood is possible. We are only too well aware of the sin and failings of our lives. But we need to keep in mind one important fact: it is God who makes us holy. Sainthood is not something we achieve by our own superhuman efforts. That idea is something the Church has long identified as heresy. Throughout our lives God is at work in the hearts of those who open their lives to his grace through faith. He liberates our freedom and enables us to respond to his call. Growth in holiness is a lifelong journey. This is what it means to say we are saints in progress.

Early in his pontificate, Pope Francis was asked by an interviewer to describe himself. His instinctive response, spoken from his heart, was: "I am a sinner." Here is an important lesson for all of us. The inescapable starting point on the path to holiness is the recognition of one's need for God and his merciful love. The Church proclaims Jesus Christ as universal Saviour. This means there is no one who is not in need of his mercy. Those whom the Church has recognized as saints would be the first to tell us this is so.

Think, for example, of some of the greatest saints. St. Peter, chosen to head the Church, betrayed Jesus. St. Paul, chosen to be the greatest preacher of the Gospel, persecuted Jesus by attacking the Church. St. Augustine, one of the Church's greatest teachers, was in his early years mired in a life of sexual license, far from the Gospel call to chaste living. Everything changed when they met Jesus, and allowed him to change their lot and make them into the people he called them to be. They teach us, as do all the saints, that holiness comes about when we allow the love and mercy of God to triumph in our hearts.

The journey to holiness is the greatest of adventures. Along this path we discover the true measure of human dignity and the wondrous mystery of human destiny. At the heart of it we encounter God, who in Jesus, has revealed Himself as a loving Father, who wants us, his children, to be with him forever in the communion of saints.

Yes, sainthood is our common vocation. As we honour the saints, let's pray that our own progress continues apace.