Thursday, November 01, 2007

Seven Benefits of Being a Saint

(All Saints Day 2007: This homily was given on November 1, 2007 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12a.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: All Saints 2007]

In one of his books Fr. Stephen Rossetti wrote the following:

“A survey was given to fifth-graders in which they were asked to rank in order the desirability of thirty-five careers. They were given such choices as doctor, teacher, lawyer, and others. They were asked to list in order which ones they most wanted to be. One of the thirty-five vocations listed was saint. Any idea where saint was listed by these boys and girls? It was second to last, thirty-fourth! The only less desirable position was garbage collector. In the minds of many, being a saint is only slightly more desirable than being a garbage collector. When asked why saint was listed so low, the children said that being a saint was a negative, unhappy life.” (From “The Joy of Priesthood,” page 210.)

This is obviously one reason why churches aren’t filled to the brim on All Saints Day! Too many people think sanctity is boring! They don’t see the concrete, practical benefits of striving to live a life of holiness.

Apparently these men, women—and children—have forgotten that in the next life there will ultimately be only 2 groups of people: the saints and the damned! So if they don’t want to be saints, what do they want to be? What’s their ultimate goal? If they’re consciously rejecting the path to heaven (because they think there’s no fun to be had on the way there!), then what path are they currently on?

The other day I decided to sit down and write out some of the many benefits of being a saint—just in case anyone here has the same perspective as the fifth graders who took that survey mentioned by Fr. Rossetti. Perhaps this will give some of us a new outlook—a more positive outlook—on the life of holiness, and therefore inspire us to pursue holiness each and every day.

Benefit #1 of being a saint: You need less “Excedrin”; that is to say, you avoid a lot of the headaches that people who commit serious sins are forced to deal with. Because we live in a media culture that glorifies sin, many people think it’s cool to fight and get drunk and fornicate and cheat and lie. After all, men and women who do these things are often portrayed in a positive light in movies and on television. But when you look at the matter objectively—and honestly—what you see is that sins like these always come with a price tag! And not only in the afterlife! Even on this side of the grave, you pay a price! These violations of God’s law destroy marriages and families and everything else we hold dear as human beings. As Paul put it in Romans 6, “The wages of sin is death.”

Benefit #2 of being a saint: You have a goal in life! And not just any goal! You have the right goal, namely, heaven! Consequently you’re not like so many people today who go through life with no sense of direction, meaning or purpose.

Benefit #3 of being a saint: You have a sense of your dignity and worth as a human person (because you know that Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, was willing to die for you and for your sins on a cross!). Hence, you don’t have the self-image problem that plagues many serious sinners.

Benefit #4 of being a saint: You have the right set of priorities, which is so crucial for successful living. You know what’s really important, and what isn’t.

Benefit #5 of being a saint: You can identify spiritual poison! In other words, you can identify those realities—those ideas, those attitudes, those friendships, etc.—that will harm your relationship with God as well as your relationships with others. And, of course, if you can identify these realities that are spiritually poisonous, you can take the necessary steps to avoid them.

Benefit #6 of being a saint: You have the ability to keep your problems in perspective, because you understand that no trial will last forever, and you know that your God is so powerful that he can bring good even out of your worst suffering. As St. Paul said, “For those who love God all things work together for good.”

And finally, benefit #7 of being a saint: You have heaven waiting for you when you die—a place of happiness and joy beyond your wildest imagining; a place where, as St. John tells us in today’s second reading, we “will see [God] as he is!" Once again, the words of St. Paul: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love him.”

So there they are: 7 clear, practical benefits of being a saint. (Someone needs to tell those fifth graders who took that survey!) And the good news is: this is not an exhaustive list! There are lots and lots of other benefits that I could have mentioned. These, believe it or not, were the ones I thought of in about two or three minutes as I was preparing this homily!

Today in the Church we honor all those men and women who have received their eternal reward because they believed that resisting sin and striving for holiness each and every day was worth the effort. They understood the benefits.

May God help us to believe what these saints believed and to live like these saints lived—because they were right!