Most of us would really like to be in heaven one day. The alternative is unthinkable. The only problem with getting into heaven is that only saints get in, both canonized and uncanonized. And while most of us are really good people, being saintly is something we must aspire to, because being a “good person” is not enough. So let’s take a look at some examples, as well as at some people, that can help us to become saints.
A good example of saintly living is to be like a flower garden, full of beautiful color. The first thing we have to do to create one is to set aside a plot of land and plow it, making the ground soft. Then we have to remove all of the weeds that are native to the ground. Then, we can plant beautiful flowers there. Once planted, we have to continue to cultivate the garden by removing the weeds, and occasionally feeding our flowers with nutrients and water. Our souls are like this. We plow our souls through prayer, fasting, reading holy books, and partaking of the sacraments and sacred scripture. But just like plowing the ground doesn’t automatically produce beautiful flowers, we have to do more. Next, we have to remove our weeds, which are our habitual sins, and the tendency to commit these sins. This is done by removing the near occasion of these sins, making a personal commitment to never do them again, and to receive the sacrament of confession frequently. Once all of these weeds our removed, then we can begin to plant the beautiful flowers of doing good deeds, living the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and making personal sacrifices for Christ and our neighbor. This beautiful garden in our soul is nurtured with the nutrients (sanctifying grace) of the sacraments, and reading sacred scripture. Once this flower bed is in full bloom in our souls for Christ, then we can look forward to becoming saints in heaven one day.
Of course, some of us will have huge gardens full of beautiful color, while others of us will have small plots with occasional color. Some of us will be continually pulling up weeds, while others will have few weeds to pull up. But the bottom line is that we are trying to become saints, and not just existing on earth for the mundane purposes of making money and enjoying pleasure. God sees what we do each and every second of our lives, and if we are trying to make a rainbow-filled garden for Him, He will certainly notice that and help us to do it. Remember, the largest applause in the marathon goes to the runner who struggles and falls down a lot, but who gets up each and every time and finally finishes the race. Most of us are in that category, I believe.
Another great example of becoming a saint is to imitate Christ. Christ loved His mother with an everlasting love. We should also have a great devotion to Mother Mary. Not that she is some kind of substitute stand-alone goddess who replaces Christ, like some mistakenly think, but rather, she is a pure and holy mother overflowing with the grace of God. The angel Gabriel called her “Full of Grace,” rather than Mary, and name changes in the bible are always significant. In other words, Mary was not “full of grace” because she had Jesus inside her womb; she was full of grace before the incarnation. And if one is full of grace, there is no room for any sin whatsoever to reside in her. Mary is the pure mold of Christ, and if we adopt her as our Mother as well, she will shape us into what Jesus wants us to be, faster and more complete than any other method. Jesus gave her to us from His cross, when He said to us all, “Behold your Mother.” Mary is not some prideful woman who demands worship of herself; rather, she is the most humble and pure woman who leads us to worship her Son. Genesis 3:15 says that “the woman” will crush the head of the serpent. This was done at Golgotha, the “place of the skull.” A daily rosary is a great way to become a saint!
This brings us to the second subject of this article, the saintmakers in our life. These can be broken down into two very different kinds of people – positive and negative. The positive ones are intuitively obvious – the great priest who inspires us to love God, the great parents who love us and help us grow into adulthood through personal sacrifice, the Christian neighbor who is always there for us, the loving spouse who helps us grow spiritually, etc. These kind of saintmakers are put there by Jesus to help us in our journey to heaven. By imitating them, we become fast-track Christians in the best possible way.
But unfortunately, there are also the negative kind of saintmakers. These are the people who cheat us, who make fun of us, who cut us off in traffic, who cuss at us, and who are just plain mean to us. We generally can’t stand these kind of people, and most of us, including yours truly, have a tendency to talk bad about these people (gossip) and/or avoid them. But this is exactly the opposite of what we are supposed to do as Christians! Jesus said to love our enemies, and to do good to those who persecute you! Jesus even forgave his torturers and murderers from His cross, saying, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” When we pray the Our Father, we declare each and every time, for God to forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us. In Matthew 7:2, it says that the same measure we give to others will be measured back to us!
So if Jesus Himself can forgive the Jews and Romans who killed him, are we, His followers, supposed to do otherwise when we are abused by our fellow man? Of course not! We are supposed to forgive all of our enemies and persecutors, just like Christ did. After all, the goal of life is to get into heaven, not to hate people or to slander our enemies for the sake of revenge.
LOVING OUR ENEMIES
So how do we fallible humans accomplish this love for our enemies? Well, for starters, we do just the opposite of what Satan expects us to do. Satan, the ruler of this world, according to Christ, fully expects us to be filled with rage at our enemies. He wants us to seethe with anger at them, 24/7. He wants us to say out loud that we will never forgive them, and that we will never forget what they did to us. He desires for us to plot our revenge against them, and to “get even with them.” He hopes that we will slander them to all of our friends, so that they will hate them too. But people who aspire to sainthood will do none of these things, because they do not want to be one with Satan. Rather, they will do what Christ wants us to do – pray for them, and do good to them, so that one day they can be one with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17). Doing what Satan wants us to do leads to hell, and that is why Christ warned us so much about him.
Next, we have to pray for the gift of forgiveness for our enemies. God will grant us this gift if we only ask Him for it. We have to let Him know that we prefer to be more like Him than we prefer to be like the devil. This is what saints do!
And finally, we need to partake of the Eucharist as often as possible. When we say the Our Father, we are praying to receive the Eucharist daily, as in “Give us this day our DAILY bread.” The Eucharist is the source, center, and summit of the Catholic life. Why? Because in John 6: 56, God tells us that when we eat His flesh and drink His blood, He abides in us, and we in Him. This is the real key to forgiving our enemies, because it makes our hearts more and more like Christ’s. And what could possibly be better than that?