Did you know that God wants us to go to heaven? He does not want us to go to purgatory or worse yet, hell. God designed us to be in heaven. This message is emphasized in the book “Surrender!” by Fr. Larry Richards. Our parish was blessed to have Fr. Richards present a mission this past September. If he said it once, he said it a hundred times — we are all called to be saints.
This weekend we celebrate the feast of All Saints when we recognize those people who have gone before us to their heavenly home. Have you looked around your church lately to identify all of the saints portrayed there? Some may be depicted on the stained-glass windows, others may be as statues and still others icons or pictures. Do you know their stories?
Maybe some of us cannot fathom becoming a saint because of the lives we lead or we feel we are not worthy. However, that very thought is antithetical to God’s plan for us. When we look to the saints we find that many times their lives were not as angelic or “holy” as we might imagine, but what they all had in common was their ultimate epiphany to surrender their lives to God. They persisted to overcome their shortcomings through adversity and many times faced martyrdom. This is our challenge to becoming a saint: to recognize our flaws and persist in our journey despite our setbacks.
The number of saints named and recognized by the church are but a mere drop in the bucket compared to all of the saints in heaven. The first reading this weekend from Revelations has a reference to the number of saints with the symbolic number of 144,000 (12 x 12 x 1000 = 12 tribes of Israel x 12 apostles x magnitude or fullness). Added to the 144,000 are “a great multitude from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” In this context we realize that the saints in heaven come from all walks of life. You name the occupation, the service, the title, from the lowliest to the most high-ranking, all are equally called to be saints.
The church has given us a great gift in the canonization of saints that we may emulate and use as our mentors and models. So, just as we look around and see each other with all of our quirks and idiosyncrasies, we also know we are a creation of God and as such are all called to be saints in heaven. Whatever our state of humanness or our degree of surrender, we are all given the justification by grace to join God in the heavenly kingdom.
Check out those saints depicted in your parish and learn from their lives. And, as Fr. Richards stated, make your top goal in life to be a saint!
Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.