A Story by Bishop R. Joseph Owles

    It is neither pride, nor vanity, dear children, that compels any of us to strive for sainthood. Even if the initial desire to reach sainthood was at first fueled by a desire for self-exaltation, that desire to exalt oneself will soon give way to a proper sense of self and others as we advance and grow toward sainthood. If you at first seek to become a saint because you feel you are better than others, or that you may presently be better than others, or if you believe that once a saint you will stand in a position of moral and spiritual superiority, then you will learn, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes with much distress, sometimes simply and with little effort, that superiority in any sense is absent from the life of a saint, for we are all of us called to become saints; therefore, there can be no superiority in what all of us are to be.

    All who are called, and all who are saved, are called to be saints. The saints and apostles in Scripture sometimes refer to the present faithful as saints. Yet, this is not necessarily a statement of our present condition as if we are now saints, but instead, a statement based upon looking at the faithful with the eyes of faith-- in the eyes of faith, a future reality can be stated as a present fact. All the faithful shall one day be counted among the saints; therefore, the apostles can call us saints in the present, even though we have yet to obtain the sainthood for which we are called.

    This has led many of the faithful into error, and quite possibly robbed them of the sainthood they believed they had achieved simply by adopting the moniker of “Christian.” Many of the faithful hold onto a belief that says: “I confess Jesus Christ as my Lord; therefore, I am at present saved and a saint.” This is the same spiritual arrogance that allows them to state that they shall not face the Last Judgment because Christians are saved and by virtue of their salvation, cannot be judged. When the Lord comes in His glory with His angels and separates the people of all the nations as a shepherd separates sheep from goats (cf. Mt. 25:31-32), they believe that they shall not be in either group. The judgment is for those who are not Christian. But ALL the people are gathered from ALL the nations.

    For until the trial and the judgment, there can be no verdict; therefore, the best any of us can say is not that we are Christians, but that we are alleged-Christians. We may adopt the principle of “Christian until proven guilty,” but the proof comes out at the trial and Judgment. Those alleged-Christians who feel that confessing Christ with their mouths will allow them to escape the judgment will find themselves scrambling and scratching for mercy on the Last Day. For we are not to say that we are Christians so we are saved, any more than the Jews were to say that Abraham was their ancestor, so they were saved (cf. Lk. 3:8). For God can just as easily raise up Christians from the same stones from which He could raise up descendants of Abraham.

    Dear children, it is an easy thing to confess Christ with our mouths, but it is not with our mouths that we are to confess Him. We are to confess Him with our lives. The Lord says that there is surprise at the Last Judgment--those who thought they were saved find themselves dammed, and those who thought themselves damned find themselves saved. How can this be? Because the Lord does not judge by what we say, but by what we do (cf. Mt. 7:21). The Lord says to us at the Last Judgment “I don’t care that you call yourselves Christians, I only care that you live as Christians.”

    Living as Christians is the essence of sainthood. We are not saints in our minds, but saints in our lives. We are not saints in our words, but saints in our actions. If we love Jesus, then we will obey His commandments (Jn. 14:15; 14:21). Faith in Jesus and obeying God’s commandments called the endurance of the saints (Rev. 14:21). Dear children, having Jesus in your heart does not matter if you do not have Jesus in your hands, in your actions, in your thoughts, in your eyes, in your mind, in your words, in all that you are, so that He may be in all that you do.

    There are others who have fallen into error by relegating sainthood to a small group of special Christians, who lived above and beyond the call of Christ. These saints are said to be exemplars of the faith, but very few of us can mimic their example. Those who share this error are often the same people who will proclaim that Christ is the perfect example for us, but that we cannot follow His example. Yet an example, dear children, that cannot be followed is not an example. It is something other and mysterious. If we are given an impossible example to follow, then we are the recipients of a cruel joke--we are set up for failure and then punished for failing. Believing this makes us worse than those who have no God at all, for the danger is not believing that God does not exist, but that the God who does exist is terrible and cruel. We are worse than atheists because atheists imperil only themselves, and are only responsible for themselves, but we are responsible for all we have led into false belief about God, as well as all they in turn imperil. 

    We shall declare that neither God, nor His Christ are cruel or terrible. We have concluded that we are given examples to be followed, not cruel jokes that cannot be emulated by those who try. So if it is true that Christ and the saints serve as examples for us, then their actions can be emulated by us. If our lives do not look like theirs, it is not because their lives are impossible for us to live, but because we are unwilling to live lives like theirs.  

    So, dear children, if we are called to be Christians, then we are called to be saints. Make no mistake, growing into sainthood is a process of purification and discipline. We shall either be purified in this life, or we shall be purified in the next. We can begin the process of purification now, or we can post-pone it if we are fortunate enough to be saved. And if we are not saved, we shall forever languish in the knowledge of a missed opportunity of what was presently possible for us to achieve.

    Even if we find that we are counted among the saved, It may be better for us, dear children, to face purification and discipline here and now than to wait for it in the life to come. It may be that they are easier to bear in this life than they are in the life to come--for in our imperfect bodies, pain is also imperfect, but when we obtain our perfect bodies, pain will also be perfected, and there is no growth without discomfort or pain, just as there is rarely any healing without discomfort. If we have not finished in growing toward perfection, and if indeed we have not even started, and since there is no growth without discomfort, and since our perfect bodies will feel discomfort more perfectly than our imperfect bodies do now, then we are destined to face a more perfect suffering in our growth than we do in this world. And if this is so, this is not without justice, for the one who freely chooses to be purified and seeks discipline shall be rewarded with less suffering than the one who despises purification and discipline. None of us shall escape the process of purification and sanctification; we shall merely choose our own time and degree.

    This instruction is intended to teach us how to presently purify ourselves and obtain the discipline that leads to sainthood. This instruction is for those religious who will live in seclusion and extreme discipline, and it is for those who live among the world, it is for the celibate and the married, those who are alone, and those who are in community. In short, it is for all the faithful because all the faithful are called to be saints. Through a series of practical teachings, disciplines, and exercises, we can all, in this life, obtain the rank of saint and the salvation that has been prepared for us from the beginning of the world.

© 2013 Bishop R. Joseph Owles

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Added on February 10, 2013
Last Updated on February 10, 2013
Tags: Bible, Jesus Christ, Church, saint, disciple, rule, God, heaven, earth, Holy Spirit, Christian, Christianity, teaching, apostles, ministry, kingdom, Catholic


Bishop R. Joseph Owles
Bishop R. Joseph Owles

Alloway, NJ

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