The Saints

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The Bible provides a great deal of evidence that Christians can and should honour and imitate the saints. One rhyme I remember from childhood ends:

Make friends with the saints,
For the saints are God's friends,
Is the motto with which
This alphabet ends.

That is who the saints are: the friends of God. Far from taking something away from God's glory when we honour and praise the saints, we are doing what God does himself. In ordinary human life, aren't we pleased when people we like also like our other friends? Don't we like them to like, respect, and enjoy each other's company? We should not attribute a jealousy or weakness to God that makes him lower than human beings.

When we honour the Blessed Virgin Mary (and it is God himself through his words in the Gospel of Luke who tells us that all generations will call her blessed) and the saints, we are really honouring God himself. We are his creation, and praise of what God has done in his creation must be praise of God himself.

Is St. Paul taking us away from God when he says in 1 Corinthians 1:1: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ"?

We all belong together in one family, and we are profoundly united with each other and with God: "God has composed the body so that greater dignity is given to the parts which were without it, and so that there may not be disagreements inside the body but each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain. And if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy."

See how St. Paul says that "they gave glory to God for me" (1 Corinthians 1:24). He boasts, as they do, not because they are giving glory to a human being for his own sake, but because of what God has done in that person.

In Philippians 3:17-20, listen to Paul's words: "Brothers be united in imitating me. Keep your eyes fixed on those who act according to the example you have from me."

In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7, he says, "You took us and the Lord as your model.", and in 2 Thessalonians 3:7, he uses the same language when he says, "You know how you should take us as your model."

Just as in this life, we ask each other for help and feel as Christians that we must help others, asking each other to pray to God when we are in difficulties, so we ask the saints to pray for us. We see this all through the Scriptures:

1. Abraham, who intercedes for the city of sodom in Gen 18:16-33;
2. Mt. 8:5-13, where the centurion's servant is healed because of the centurion's faith in Christ;
3. Mt 15:21-28, where the mother appeals to Christ on behalf of her daughter;
4. Lk 5:17-26, where a crippled man's friends bring him to Christ's presence.

You might say that in all these cases the people who do the interceding are alive, but the saints are dead. But that is sub-Christian! In the words of Christ himself, is God a God of the dead or of the living? Death is not some cut-off point that separates us from each other. Do we believe that the people we love are separated from us for ever? Don't we believe that Christ has conquered death? The assertions in the Bible that in death our life is only changed, not taken away, are too numerous to list. My favourite is Romans 8:38-39:

"For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created things whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord."

If nothing can come between us, how can we not count on the help in this often miserable life of those who have fought the good fight and won "the unfading crown of glory"? They are our brothers and sisters, with whom we share life through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. We rejoice together. We pray and exchange love together in one communion, sharing the common life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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