To the church that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:2-3
Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, says its members are “called to be saints.” The church today refers to members who have passed from this life as saints. The Catholic Church has a formal process by which persons may be awarded “sainthood” after their death. Regardless of the methodology, I have a recent experience with a mostly regular guy receiving sainthood – my brother.
Regular readers of Life Notes know that I lost my brother, Wade, about a month ago. By most accounts, Wade was a pretty regular guy. He had a typical mix of good and annoying qualities. He had close friends. He worked for a living, loved his children and grandchildren, and he valued his family – including his extended family – above all. Still, most people would have considered Wade a “good old boy,” not a saint. Had I called my brother a saint, he would have scoffed, much preferring the “good old boy” title.
Those speaking at his memorial service, however, showered Wade with praise, and appropriately so. He was a close friend and confidant to many; he cared about the marginalized of society; he was generous to a fault. With a unique sense of humor, he was quick to put those around him at ease. Listening to the many who spoke about my brother, one might think he walked on water, which he decidedly did not do. Wade was very human, with all the accompanying disappointments and frailties. Still, I have seen this magical transformation – from sinner to saint – occur repeatedly. Apparently, all a person must do to attain sainthood is to die.
Why is it that we remember people more positively when we are no longer in close, physical proximity to them? Once loved ones are gone, an outsider might believe we worshipped the ground they walked on – something far from the truth in most cases. Numerous artists died penniless, only to have their works worth millions after their death. Coincidence? I doubt it. Sins are quickly forgiven, once we know they cannot be repeated. In addition, we are quick to value that which is no longer readily available to us. Ultimately, I think we are all saints-in-waiting. Our good and true selves cannot always shine through our earthly failings, at least not until the earth falls off of us. It is not easy to live up to the expectations of ourselves, let alone those of others. The good in each of us is so much more apparent when there is no less-than-good competing with it. This is not to diminish sainthood in any way. It is deserved – for my brother and the other saints. An oft- forgotten requirement for saints, however, is to first be human.
Come home to church this Sunday. Let your inner saint shine through!