Sexagesima Sunday 8.2.15 Learning from the Saints
The epistle today gives detail of St Paul’s extraordinary life and ministry. When we hear of such things, or stories of other saints, we are inspired but we might also be discouraged.
We might think we could never be that good, as good as such a saint, and so then abandon any ideas of improvement.
But, as with other spheres of human activity, we naturally look to the best for inspiration.
People watch the Grand Slam Tennis and the World Cup soccer etc because they want to see the best performers in each field.
The saints are like that. The saints are the A-league of how to live.
We may never be that good but we are highly likely to improve on what we presently are, if we turn to them for inspiration.
The basic lesson the saints teach us is to give all that we have to the task, to give one hundred per cent at all times.
This might sound too demanding yet it is what we would do in any area of interest.
If we are drawn to a particular interest we like to do better at it, whether it be art or music or gardening – anything we have a passion for.
These things, however, we could live without. We do not have to garden, or play tennis etc but we do have to love God. It is something built into our nature.
He has made us in such a way that we have a thirst for Him (like a deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is thirsting for Thee, My God (Ps 41,2)).
To refuse to do this would be like refusing to eat or drink. It is something we need; it is not an option.
This is something we did not ask for, just like we did not ask to be born. But we can be glad all the same that we have this opportunity.
The way to express this love is the same as we fulfil other needs, gradually, bit by bit.
To eat, for instance: we eat only a bit at a time. We cannot take all our life’s requirement at one meal.
So for love of God we can love Him completely by getting the next thing right in each case.
We do not have to climb a high mountain in one step. We merely have to deal with each situation as it arises, and find the option which most pleases God.
Most of what we have to do in life is not spectacular but the ordinary everyday things.
This is why St Paul emphasises humility as the key ingredient in his own life.
It is not the shipwrecks etc that he wants to talk about but the fact that whatever he has achieved was by God’s grace, and only by that grace. He trusted in God at every point, and the help he needed was always there.
And this is how we get by also. We cannot do this by our own strength, and yet we can do it - if we call on that divine strength.
We can and we must do this; not just opt out because it is too hard.
We are promised heaven if we head in this direction.
If we give God everything we have at any given moment then He will give us more capacity to love, each time we do that.
If we keep this process going, gradually all in us will be of Him. This is what the saints achieved, and what they inspire us to imitate.