The French novelist Leon Bloy claimed that the only tragedy in life was “not to have been a saint.” Writing to the Corinthians today, St. Paul draws out the same theme when he addresses “the holy people of Jesus Christ who are called to take their place among all the saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2). He is writing to the Church at Corinth and yet in a very real way, he can be said to be writing to the Church in Ireland. He is writing to the Church in Donegal, Cork and everywhere else for that matter and most especially to whichever Church or Chapel you are sitting in, in whichever local parish this morning listening to these words. We are called to be saints. God wants it for us more than we know.
If sainthood is the goal we ought to aspire to, St. John the Baptist tells us how to go about it. “It was to reveal Him (Jesus) to Israel that I came” he says (John 1:31). John’s whole existence is so bound up with making Jesus known to others that it defines him. He cannot be understood apart from Christ. He leapt in his mother’s womb at the greeting of Mary (Luke 1:41), proclaiming the presence of God to his mother Elizabeth and he was still bearing witness many years later baptising in the river Jordan. John’s is a paradoxical kind of role whereby to grow greater in the Lord’s sight, he must decrease so that the Lord might increase. I heard a priest say something to this effect once when he said that by being ordained a priest “he was being ordained to disappear.”
Being Christian simply means to be Christ-like. There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but all are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). All Christians are one in making Christ manifest to the world; this is what unites us. It is no longer Stephanie nor Jennifer, David nor Thomas but Christ in all and through all. As witnesses like John the Baptist, we testify to another; we are to disappear like that priest. Our lives must speak of Christ. Only through Him, with Him and in Him are we truly to be found because we have died and our lives are now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
Thankfully the richness and diversity of the Church in every land provides great opportunity and variety, such that we can be Christ to whoever we meet. Whether in the classroom, the office or the field from Minnesota to Mozambique, we are all called to be saints. Let us be saints brothers and sisters so that we too, like the faithful and wise stewards, will hear those beautiful words “come and join in your Master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21).
Gospel Reflection for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A (John 1:29-34)