Well, she had finally done it. On September 4, 2016 Mother Teresa of Calcutta was now officially Saint Teresa of Calcutta. She was proclaimed a Saint by Pope Francis and the Catholic church, despite open criticism by many of the secular journalist.
You probably know Mother Teresa. The tiny Albanian nun who gave her life to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta India. After her death in 1997 the process of becoming a saint in the catholic church was started.
Now, this process of declaring a saint is ancient and very traditional and often times mysterious. Evidence must be presented to persuade Church officials that the person in question in fact lived a virtuous life, had faith and had the support and help of god. The church must also look at miracles as evidence that God is working through that person.
Was Teresa’s up to the task? She was obviously a Servant of God, an official designation by the Catholic Church and would definitely be considered for sainthood. And she was considered to be venerable, which meant that she had lived a life of “heroic virtue”. That doesn’t mean they were sinless, of course, but it does mean she worked aggressively to improve herself spiritually and never gave up trying to be better and grow in holiness.
But then the beatification process began by which she would become Blessed. So, after Teresa’s death the Holy See began the process of beatification to make her a saint. The church submitted 76 documents totaling 35,000 pages, which were based on interview with 113 witness who were asked to answer 236 questions to prove that Teresa was indeed of heroic virtue.
But this step also included the need of a document miracle. In 2002 the Vatican recognized as a miracle the healing of a tumor in the abdomen of an Indian woman named Monica Besra. According to sources, a locket containing Teresa’s picture was applied to the woman’s abdomen and a beam of light emanated from the picture and her cancerous tumor was cured. Ironically, the woman’s husband gave credit to the doctors and the medicine she had been taking for a few months, but you couldn’t convince her of this. This was a divine intervention and that picture of Teresa had healed her.
A medical committed called the Consulta Medica ruled that this woman’s healing was indeed a miracle and was evidence of divine intercession. So, Teresa was beatified on October 19, 2003 and was known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
Now, the big one. Sainthood. This would recognize Teresa’s entrance into Heaven, allowing her to skip purgatory and also be able to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in her name. A pretty big deal for a little nun from Macedonia.
But the Saint must have another documented miracle on their resume. What would this one be? Would this miracle be a miraculous healing? Or would be another unexplainable phenomena? Perhaps like St. Catherine of Siena who, according to the Catholic church, although she died in 1380, claims that her flesh has never decomposed. Or what about St. Januarius, who, according to the church, a vial of his dried blood liquefies every year on September 19, which happens to be his feast day. Or would it be like another Teresa, St. Teresa of Avila? According to the church her grave exuded a sweet fragrance eve up to nine months after her death.
Well, unfortunately for us, it was just another miraculous healing. This time a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumors. He met Teresa and she prayed for him, and then a few months later, the tumors were gone.
So then, on September 4, 2016, Pope Francis canonized Teresa in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. Tens of thousands of people witnessed the ceremony that include 15 government delegations and 1,500 homeless people from across Italy as well as everyone who streamed it online or watched in live on the Vatican channel on TV.
So now, every good little Catholic girl and Catholic boy can pray to St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Now, let me go ahead and make a few comments. If you grew up Catholic, consider yourself to be Catholic or have friends and family members who are Catholic, I am in no way making fun of them or making light of their religion. However, I do want you to see that, as much as people want to say we do, Protestants, and I consider Baptists to be Protestant though I know the history of the Protestant Reformation (that’s for another time and day) we do not believe the same thing as the Catholic church. There is a huge divide.
Secondly, I am in no way, shape or form downplaying miraculous healings. But I will say this, God is the One who heals, not a person. God heals each and every day. And I believe God does his best healing in hospitals with trained doctors and nurses and the gift of medicine. So, I’m not saying that you or your loved one has never experienced a miraculous healing, because every time I speak on it someone always tells me about their grandma or their own healing where the doctors can’t figure out what happened. And I say Amen to that. But just give credit where credit is due. God healed you. Not a preacher. Not an evangelist. Not an angel. Not Mother Teresa. God.
Now, why did I tell you that story? The main point is this, we have a very different idea of what it means to be a saint than what the Bible says what it means to be a saint.
For instance, you could almost pick just about any of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, and you will find the word saint. 40 times in the New Testament Paul uses the word saint, and guess who he’s talking about? He’s talking about Christians. Not super Christians. Not the super-spiritual, got their life together, don’t have any problems, never sin, don’t smoke, drink or chew and don’t go with girls who do. No, read some of his letters. Those churches are messed up! Their infighting and treating the rich better than the poor, some of the women are going house to house gossiping, standing up in service and correcting the pastor, getting drunk on the communion wine. But what does Paul call these people? Saints of God.
Romans 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.
I’ll stop there. I could keep going.
Now, let me ask you a question, if Paul can call the people in the New Testament that were so messed up saints, can he call me and you saints? The answer is yes. We are indeed saints of God.
Now, again, don’t hear me wrong, and don’t let your preconceived idea of what being a saint means. It doesn’t mean you are perfect. It doesn’t mean you have a halo around your head. It certainly doesn’t mean you have performed at least two miracles in your life.
So, what does it mean? Well, in the most basic form, it means someone who is holy and set apart as special to God. And newsflash, Brother and Sister Christian, that would be you.
“Wait,” you may say. “I’m not holy. I’m a sinner. I’m a wretched sinner. I know my heart. I know my thoughts. I know my actions. And I would never consider myself to be holy.”
And that’s true. And that’s good that you realize that. Because you will never be good enough to be holy or righteous. But Jesus is. Jesus declares you holy and righteous, not because of what you have done, but because of what He did on the cross of Calvary.
The Bible says that we are a new creation in 2 Cor. 5:17. And then in 2 Cor. 5:21 Paul makes this amazing declaration: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
You have been declared righteous by the King of the Universe. You don’t need a special counsel from the Catholic Church. Jesus says your holy, therefore, you are holy. You are a saint.
But, you may be asking, why do I feel like such a sinner. Well, back in the 1500s a man named Martin Luther used a phrase to describe this predicament: He said Christians is simultaneously a saint and a sinner. We are both. Until Jesus comes to take us home or our life on this earth or over, we will still fight against our sinful nature. We will still live in a world that is darkened by sin. We will still have to face the consequences of our past sins and the sins of those around us.
So, we still feel our sin and the sin of those around us. But make no mistake, we are indeed saints, holy ones of God, called according to His purposes. Every Christian is a saint. The body of Christ is the sainthood of the church, not the super religious, impressive resumes who have authentic miracles. We are saints based on our connection to Christ. When we are in Christ, then we have our sins forgiven, we have no condemnation, we have a new position in harmony with Jesus, and we are set apart for the purpose of God.
Now, what does this mean practically for us? Well, when we are indeed saints, holy ones of God, then perhaps we should act like it. I’ve been around Christians my entire life and I’ve been in church my entire life. And I can say with confidence that there are a lot of Christians who do not believe that they are saints. They don’t believe they are special to God. They don’t believe that God forgives them and will never remember their sin. They live their life under the guilt and shame and condemnation. And they live in a defeatist mentality. That this is the best it can get. Many Christians, and as a result many churches, are in survival mode. They just want to get by. Let’s get through one more day or one more Sunday and then we’ll figure out what to do next week. But they have settled for mediocrity. They have settled for good enough. They have settled for less than best.
I believe that Jesus has a better plan than that. I believe that Jesus wants you to live in freedom. He wants you to live in the victory of the cross. In victory over sin. In victory over condemnation. In victory of the rightful wrath that you deserve. In the victory of death. In victory over Hell.
Notice, I did not say victory of sickness. I did not say victory over poverty. I did not say victory of persecution or suffering. The Bible makes no promises of the Christian life being all hopscotch and puppy dogs. The Christian life is about discipline, endurance and completely relying on the strength of the gospel each and every day.
But we must come to the point of our lives where we no longer settle for good enough. I don’t want to be a good enough Christian, because I don’t worship a good enough Savior. I worship a wonderful, indescribable Savior. And He has promised us His presence, His power and His purpose in our lives.
As you look around your local church, look around your home, and take an internal survey of your own life, you should be thankful for what God has done and is doing. But as I think of what God will be doing in my life in the future, I personally think we can do better. Because Jesus deserves our best. Jesus has a plan for your life and His church. Scripture says “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). And I am excited to see what God has in store for His people.
But we should be better. We will not be simply good enough. If good enough is our goal, then we are setting our bar to low. You are a saint. You are a holy one of God. You are set apart as special in the eyes of King Jesus. Remember that, dear brother and sister. Don’t forget His love. Don’t forget His forgiveness. Don’t forget how glorious He is and how worthy He is of our worship. And don’t forget that He has a plan and a purpose for your life and for this church.