Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and ministers: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:1-11 NAB)
“Are you a saint?” If someone were to ask you this question, how would you answer it? We have recently celebrated All Saints Day, and it’s easy to treat it as just another yearly feast without thinking much about its significance in our own lives as Catholic men. In this article, we will take a look at the things that make someone a saint.
At the very beginning of his letter to the Philippians, Paul called his readers “saints,” or “holy ones” (Note: many Bible translations use the word saints in place of “holy ones.”) When we hear the word “saint,” most of us think of the special Christians of the past-canonized saints-who are renowned because of their extraordinary holiness and witness, in some cases to the point of martyrdom. However, when Paul used the word “saint,” he used it with a small “s” not a capital “S.” and thus meant all Christians-even us today!
In one sense, everyone who is baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection is a saint. This is not to diminish the special role of the canonized saints but to highlight the immense gift that is all of ours in Christ. Because of the power of the cross, each Christian has the same inheritance in heaven as the great saints whose lives we commemorated in a special way on All Saints Day.
Based on the characteristics that Paul mentioned in the first few verses of Philippians, we can begin to define what makes a person a “saint.”:
- Saints are “in Christ” (Philippians 1:1).
- They are united with Jesus; they are “partners . . . in grace” (1:7).
- They have access to the love and power of the Spirit in their everyday lives.
- Because of their “partnership for the gospel” (1:5), they are all called and empowered to proclaim the gospel and build the kingdom of God.
- Baptized into Christ and filled with the Spirit, saints stand as a sign to the world of the love and power of God.
Do you believe that these characteristics are just as true of you as they were of the first believers? Like them, you too can be assured that God will bring to completion the “good work” he began in you at baptism (Philippians 1:6). Remember, the Holy Spirit will help you each day to take steps to embrace your full inheritance in Christ.
Do you want to be a saint? Then place your faith in Jesus. Believe that he is making you into a saint. Drink deeply of his grace, and take possession of your inheritance. Take hold of Paul’s prayer that “your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” By God’s grace, you can manifest his love to the world as one of the Lord’s saints. You can shine as one of God’s holy ones.
“Father, thank you for giving me a share in the fellowship of your saints. By your Spirit, empower me to embrace Jesus and his life in me. Empower me to be a saint.”
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. How would you answer the question: “Are you a saint?
2. Review the characteristics of a saint described in the article. How would you describe what it means to be a “saint”?
3. What steps can you take to open yourself more to the work of the Holy Spirit to form you more and more into a “saint”?
4. At the end of your meeting, pray for one another that each of you would be empowered to be saints and a witness to this broken and hurting world. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.