“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
(Gospel text: JN 17:20-26)
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”
Have you ever heard this one, “I’m not a saint.”
I’ve never really paused to consider the significance of this unique phrase as part of our modern lexicon. I’ve used it more than my fair share of times, exclusively to dismiss some character flaw of mine as insurmountable, or otherwise unavoidably linked to who I am.
But as I have grown deeper into my Catholic faith, I found myself rather enamored with the lives of the saints. And let me tell you, there weren’t any saints.
St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order that educated me, before turning to a life of God (ironically by reading about the lives of the saints, but I’ll save that for another time) was a soldier, prone to vanity, and a well-documented fan of the lady-folk. In fact, he had part of his broken leg readjusted (in the most painful way) because he was afraid he would look bad in his tights. Certainly, this man was no saint.
St. Paul is another, as a man who actively murdered Christians who turned to God in the desert. St. Augustine, a womanizer who once famously uttered the prayer “God grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”
Each of these individuals, like us, has their flaws. In fact, we come from a better place than many of these men and women whom we revere. But what we forget when we say “I’m not a saint” is not that these men and women were born with some innate sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, or that they somehow transcend their humanity in their life, but something else altogether.
These people responded to God. They listened when he called on them to change or to act. They put aside their human insufficiencies and embraced their Lord, something that we are called to do each and every day, as well.
The opportunity is there for us as much as any of the saints, but it is up to us to welcome and live God’s message to us.
So, perhaps a slight change is in order for this phrase, “I’m not a saint. But I’m working on it.”