The current ever so likeable Pope recently made or recognised two now deceased Popes as Saints. That was my background – Popes and Saints. You can imagine my surprise when I was transformed by Christ on my own little Damascus Road, some 20 odd (very odd) years ago. I quickly read most of the New Testament and there it was – jumping out at me in (Saint) Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus (modern day Turkey) –
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 ….
Wow! saints in Ephesus. Saints alive! In Ephesus. Wow! Turns out saints simply means ones made holy by what Jesus has achieved. He lives the holy life – he then lends & gives his holiness to the unholy (that’s me). Jesus said he came for the sick (that’s me) not the well (that’s not me). Honest read it for yourself.
Matthew 9:11-13 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This lending and giving happens by the sick just accepting and receiving the righteousness or rightstanding of Jesus as a gift. By believing it and in the One who provides it. Amazing. Amazing grace in fact. No striving to be good, earning brownie points, dying with despair because of enormously bad decisions, mistakes, sins.
Just (understatement) a transfer all of my stuff onto Him and all of his stuff onto me. Filled with humility and blown away by the kindness of a Holy Holy Holy God – I start to live for him and even begin to make some good decisions, other-centred decisions. Grace (undeserved kindness from God) gets to work on you and it changes you. Instantly and gradually-continually. Leaves you with less attitude and more gratitude.
So, ridiculous as it may sound, I am in fact a saint and Pope Francis doesn’t even know me. I recently spent the Easter Week on the English south coast and hung out at an Anglican Cathedral for most of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It was founded in 1108 and is closely connected to one they call Saint Richard. Here is a wonderful prayer he wrote during his lifetime and this morning it is my prayer for me & thee.
Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits thou hast won for me,
For all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
May I know thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
And follow thee more nearly:
For ever and ever.
–St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)