Pope: Saints are humble sinners, sanctified by Jesus

2014-05-09 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Saints are not heroes, but are sinners who follow Jesus along the path of humility and of the Cross and thus allow themselves to be sanctified by Him – because no one is able to sanctify himself. This was the message of Pope Francis in his homily at daily Mass on Friday at the Casa Santa Marta.

Beginning with the first Reading, which tells the story of the conversion of Paul from an enemy of the Church to a saint, Pope Francis explained what is meant when we say “the Church is holy”:

“But how can she be holy if we are all within [her]? We are all sinners here. Yet the Church is holy! We are sinners, but she is holy. She is the spouse of Jesus Christ, and He loves her, He sanctifies her, He sanctifies her every day with His Eucharistic sacrifice, because He loves her so much. And we are sinners, but in a holy Church. And we too are sanctified with this belonging to the Church: we are children of Church, and Mother Church sanctifies us, with her love, with the Sacraments of her Spouse.”

In his letters, the Pope said, “Saint Paul speaks to the saints, to us: sinners, but children of the holy Church, sanctified by the Body and the Blood of Jesus”:

“In this holy Church the Lord chooses certain people so that holiness can be better seen, to show that it is He who sanctifies, that no one sanctifies himself, that there’s no course to become a saint, that it’s not being a religious fraud or something of that sort… No! It’s not that! Holiness is a gift of Jesus to His Church and to show this He chooses people in whom His work of sanctifying is clearly seen.”

In the Gospel, the Pope said, there are many examples of saints: there is Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out seven demons; there’s Matthew “who was a traitor to his people and took money to give it to the Romans;” there’s Zacchaeus and so many others who show everyone “the first rule of sanctity: it is necessary that Christ increases and that we decrease. It is the rule of sanctity: we become humble, so that the Lord might increase.”

And so, Christ chooses Saul, who is a persecutor of the Church: “but the Lord awaits him. The Lord awaits him, and makes him feel His power.” Saul “becomes blind and obeys,” and from the old man that he was, “he becomes like a child: he obeys!” His heart is changed: “it is another life!” But Paul does not become a hero, the Pope explained, because he who had preached the Gospel throughout the world “ended his life with a little group of friends, here in Rome, a victim of his disciples.” “One morning, 3, 4, 5 soldiers came to him.. they took him away and cut off his head. Simply. The great man, who had gone out into the whole world, ended his life in this way.” He diminished, the Pope said. “The difference between heroes and saints,” Pope Francis affirmed, “is the witness, the imitation of Jesus Christ, going along the way of Jesus Christ,” [the way] of the Cross. And many saints “end their lives so humbly. The great saints! I think of the last days of Saint John Paul II,” the Pope recalled. “We all saw it:”

“He could not speak, the great athlete of God. This is how the great warrior of God ended his life, destroyed by disease, humiliated like Jesus. This is the path of sanctity of the great. And it is path of our sanctity. If we do not allow our hearts to be converted to this street of Jesus – bearing the cross every day, the ordinary cross, the simple cross – and allowing Jesus to increase; if we do not take this path, we will not be saints. But if we take this path, all of us will bear witness to Jesus Christ, who loves us so much. And we bear witness that, although we are sinners, the Church is holy. She is the spouse of Jesus.”