This evening we were to speak with our Confirmands about Devotion to the Saints. We started last week by talking about Devotion to Mary, which the church teaches as a form of Veneration NOT Worship. The distinction is important.
As for saints, a word used by St. Paul when referring to his fellow Christians, we point to his many salutations declaring us as such.
1 Corin 1:2
2 Corin 1:1
He often uses salutations like fellow citizens, or brothers and sisters, and here it is important to recognize he's not being general with those words. He specifically refers in his writings to a royal family of believers and followers of God. He specifically refers to a Kingdom of God and a Great Nation. So when he speaks of us fellow Christians as saints, he is specifically referring to something special and set apart. This is important.
Additionally, St. Paul writes of God being "not a god of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." He writes of "the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints." He writes of "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." St. Paul states the saints are qualified to receive an inheritance from the Father in LIGHT. He further states all the saints should be on alert with "perseverance and petition."
In Romans, St. Paul writes that Jesus "intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
These saints, we followers of Christ Jesus, are set apart, special, to be people of peace, knowledgeable of God, faithful, recipients of a special inheritance, and on alert against all that may lead to sin while ceaselessly petitioning our Lord.
This is both descriptive of those who follow Christ Jesus, and PRESCRIPTIVE for those who say they are followers of Christ Jesus. It describes who we are, AND it teaches us who we should be.
That leads us to SAINTS with a capital 'S.' It is important to understand the distinction between "lower case saints," and "Capital 'S' Saints."
St. Paul teaches, as Christ Himself demonstrates, death of the physical body is not death of the person. We go on...as Christ also "went on," through His resurrection. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 that because of Christ's resurrection, those who were faithful followers who have "fallen asleep," or died, ARE STILL ALIVE IN CHRIST.
We can debate and discuss what that "looks" like, but it doesn't really matter. Maybe some are "resting," others "asleep," as Paul implies, or maybe in Heaven or Purgatory. I don't think that matters. What matters is that they are still alive, regardless of what it might look like to us. Further, as I mentioned, they were also "saints."
Which leads us to first Hebrews, where the writers speaks volumes of all the faithful who came before, what their lives in service of the Lord looked like, and how incredibly faithful they were in that work of service to God. Chapter 12 starts with, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us."
The writer states that ALL THOSE FAITHFUL they just wrote about, currently surround us, apparently know what were doing with our lives to some capacity, and expect, or at the very least HOPE, that we will remain faithful to Christ Jesus until our race is finished.
Finally, jump to Revelation 5 & 6. Here we have 24 "elders" and "countless" angels, creatures, and "the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God."
We are told they "cried out in a loud voice, 'How long will it be, holy and true master, before you sit in judgement and avenge our blood on the inhabitant of the earth?'" and , "Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little while longer until the number was filled of their fellow servants and brothers who were going to be killed as they had been."
This sure looks like a picture of a great cloud of SAINTS petitioning on behalf of justice, and the Lord's response to them is to wait until the last of their number join them in His throne room.
This Communion of Saints is part of our Creed. The living and the not physically living, both serving God in search of peace and justice, petitioning God all along the way.
I say to our kids regularly about the saints that we are all them, and they are us. The only difference between us and the capital 'S' saints is that instead of as St. Paul wrote, having fallen asleep in the Lord, (man...I know I could use the rest) capital 'S' Saints are still persevering and petitioning even now in Heaven, for themselves and for us.
We devote ourselves to be like them. To work and serve God with our prayers and actions. That is the nature of Devotion to the Saints. We do not pray TO them. They are not God. But we do talk to them, commune with them, pray WITH them....because they are not DEAD dead. They are very much living with God and continuing to intercede for themselves and for us...for peace, and for justice.
And why not ask them to pray for us. They are living, just like our friends today. We talk with our friends and ask them to pray for us. Likewise, we offer to pray for our friends and family all the time. The question shouldn't be why do we pray with this great cloud of witnesses or Communion of Saints, the question should be why wouldn't we. They are directly in the presence of God.
That's the lesson for tonight.
Remember, pick a Saint. It's not necessary to be named a Saint at Confirmation, but I still expect you to pick one and write an essay about them, due on or before your final interview with Fr. Bill and myself. It should be a minimum of 5 paragraphs. Similar to the essay I expect you to write about your experience serving your 25 volunteer hours.
Next week: The Cost of Following
Let me know if you have any questions. I hope you do. Email is fine. Parents can reach out to me here, and I will do my best to answer.
Blessings and good health,
DJ | AMDG