Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Most people are very confused about Christian holiness. They think that to be holy is to be perfect and to be uber religious. Of course, in the world, the people that think they are perfect and are uber religious are normally some of the most hypocritical and toxic individuals. For this reason, some are actually driven away from Christianity because the mental picture they have of it is of people who are pretending to be saints. True Christian holiness is something quite different. If you examine the lives of those individuals whom everyone agrees lived like saints, like Mother Theresa, it is interesting to notice that they never talk about how much better than are becoming. In fact, with genuine saints, there is an increasing consciousness of sin and unworthiness. The road of Christian holiness is on the one hand to plumb the depths of the darkness of the human heart and our capacity for despair apart from God and each other, while on the other hand, growing in the knowledge that we belong to the Lord Jesus, we have been redeemed by his blood and by being a new Adam he has claimed us as his offspring. You see, the Gospel proclamation is that we are God's children by virtue of our trust and faith in Jesus Christ. In the opening of John's Gospel, we are told, “To as many as believed in him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” As adopted children of God, the Lord Jesus is our elder brother. He gives to us his holiness and righteousness. Holiness is not something we can manufacture by our efforts, but something we receive as we acknowledge our sins and surrender to him as Lord.
This is precisely why we can have a feast of All Saints. It isn't simply laziness on our part because we don't want to honor each one with a separate feast day Rather, we are acknowledging that the saints belong together. The saints belong together because of whom they belong to and whose holiness they exhibited in their lives. It was his holiness that they showed forth in humility; it was his strength that they showed forth in their weakness; it was his grace that they showed forth in their insufficiency.
And inasmuch as we, my brothers and sisters, are humble; inasmuch as we are weak; inasmuch as we are insufficient, we have the grace to acknowledge that we belong to this Lord. There is nothing in us that can make us holy, but if we are marked as his then we are holy. And we are marked as his, when we are baptized, when we receive Holy Communion. These outward signs indicate the spiritual grace that we have to belong to him. He is one Christ, and all saints belong to him, whether in heaven or in earth. And every time we gather at this table, we believe that are joined to him and ask that “he may dwell in us, and we in him.” All those saints that have gone before us, the ones who are known and admired, as well as the many more who are remembered only by a few with cherished memories and stricken hearts, and even those saints who have been forgotten, they too are joined with us in Christ in our worship of God Almighty. As one of the classic hymns of our tradition states, we are separated from the saints at rest, only by the narrow stream of death. In this banquet of life, we are in put in mind that our communion with all the saints who have gone before us is established in God and in his Christ.