Spiritual Reflection – Blessed Saints
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. —John 15:11
When most of us think of saints, we call to mind those godly men and women officially canonised by the church, giants of the faith such as Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila. But the true meaning of sainthood is more inclusive. The saints of God are all faithful people, living and dead, rightly related to God, restored to full communion with their loving Creator through the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And what is the defining quality, the distinguishing mark, of a saint? It is, I believe, a deep and perfect joy. In the collect for All Saints’ Day found in the Book of Common Prayer, we pray that we may follow all “your blessed saints … that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you.” The Bible is filled with joyful songs of praise by the saints of God—saints singing and dancing, playing harps and timbrels, hungering and weeping no more, praising their Saviour all the day long, even being “joyful on their beds.”
The good news of Jesus Christ is that God wants each of us to be a saint, to experience the ineffable joy the Lord has prepared for us. So how does that work? How do we reach this state of blessedness? The first step, ironically, is to acknowledge our own unworthiness. We have to admit that some things in our lives are not as they should be and that we want to set them right. This is what we call confession and repentance. But this sense of unworthiness may itself be a barrier between us and God. That is where the healing grace of Christ comes in. By opening our hearts and receiving grace, the unmerited love of God, we are forgiven and restored to communion with our loving Creator. This is what we call redemption and reconciliation. The great joy we then experience, at the depth of our being, is true blessedness. Out of that joy, we respond with a life of faithful discipleship. We live our lives in a new way, the way of Christ, the way followed by all those other joyful souls in the communion of saints.
John the evangelist writes with crystal clarity about the loving essence of our heavenly Father and our place in God’s beloved family:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
The way to blessedness is Jesus Christ, the one whom the heavenly Father calls Beloved. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”
Christ’s invitation is to abide in his love—to follow his way and to experience thereby his perfect joy. “As the Father has loved me,” he said to his followers, “so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
James J. Rawls. On the Way: 100 Meditations on the Journey of Faith. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2018, eBook.