Have you ever known someone who you think of and say, “That person is a saint.” Maybe it’s their sweet disposition, their boldness in proclaiming the truth, or their intense piety that makes you peg them as a “living saint.” Too often, though, that line of thinking can make us judge people, and maybe even ourselves, based on the world’s definition of a saint, and not God’s.
Maybe you look at yourself and think that you aren’t saint material. You think that your anxiety means you’re not trusting enough, your tendency to doubt means you’re not faithful enough, your depression means you’re not hopeful enough, your anger means you’re not loving enough. But recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ pointed out that being saintly doesn’t always look like we think it does. And that your weaknesses don’t have to be a hindrance to your holiness, but can actually help to make you the saint you were made to be.
On what it takes to be a saint, Fr. Matthew said, “It’s not only about our outlook, it’s not only about our personality qualities. That is the amazing thing. Take a moment here and think about this: people with some of the worst personality qualities that you and I could imagine have the possibility of becoming a saint. Why? Because if they have free will they can choose God.”
“To be a saint requires an act of the will,” he explained. “And to be a saint doesn’t mean that I’m going to simply have a certain set of personality qualities. To be a saint means I choose to do God’s will rather than my will. That I choose to take up my cross, deny myself, and follow Jesus. That I choose to love my enemies. I mean, just pick all the mandates inside the Gospel and look at them and say, these are the road map that Christ has given us to be saints. These are the directions that God gives in order to become holy, the way He wants us to be.”
Often when we think of saints, we think of people who were able to rise above it all to be singularly focused on God. Can you really be a saint if you struggle with anger, despair, doubt, impurity, or any other temptation? Yes. Because the saints didn’t just overpower their weaknesses and struggles on their own. They turned them over to the Lord so He could make them holy in the particular way He desired.
“To be a saint means to be in love with Jesus and do His will,” Fr. Matthew said. “To be a saint means to grapple with the weaknesses that we have, with the struggles that we face. The way that you’re tempted, the particular struggles that you face, in your character, in your personality, and the different ways that you are a human being – those don’t define whether you’re going to make it to heaven or not.”
What the Lord told to St. Paul He says to all of us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” So rather than seeing our weaknesses as an obstacle to our relationship with the Lord, we can see them as an invitation to let the Lord make saints out of us.
Fr. Matthew encouraged listeners saying, “Your weaknesses provide the opportunity for you to trust in God more. Your weaknesses provide the opportunity for you to rely on God’s strength, rather than your own strength.”
“If you and I are going to be saints, we’re going to look at our lives and realize that we’re weak,” he continued. “If you and I are going to go to heaven, what it means is that we find holiness in our weakness. That our holiness is not found by overcoming all of our weaknesses, and by our own strength doing whatever God wants. It comes, instead, by doing what God wants by His strength. By relying completely on Him. That’s what you and I are called to. We’re called to find the Lord and find His help in our weakness. If you and I can do that, we will find the sanctity that God has planned for us. Not the sanctity of the world, not the sanctity that you and I imagine. But instead the sanctity that God wants.”
Listen to the full reflection below: