Nov. 1, 2021
“The essential work of religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine image in ourselves and everything else too.” Fr. Richard Rohr
I was born into a Roman Catholic family with devout (dogmatic) parents. Yet what I remember most about All Saints’ Day, one of the major feast days in that tradition observed on the first day of November, is not a celebration of the holy elite or a desire to be like them, but having that day off from school. One of the perks of attending a private Catholic school was that we were given holidays that our Protestant friends did not receive, and, as a child, All Saints’ Day was my favorite because it gave me the opportunity to sort all my Halloween candy. Even as I grew up, All Saints’ Day never particularly spoke to me. Looking back, I think it is because I never thought I’d be good enough, holy enough, sacrificial enough, in love with God enough, to be called a “saint.”
Let’s face it. Most of us have some struggle with our own self-worth. If we did not solidly receive (and accept) the message that we are loved simply because we are, simply because God chose to create us out of desire, then it is going to be difficult to imagine ourselves in the upper echelon of God’s beloved. And the Church itself (both Catholic and Protestant) has not been particularly helpful in stressing our original goodness but has done a very good job of reminding us of our original sinfulness. It’s no wonder so many of us have just given up on believing in our beloved-ness.
However, the very first book in the Bible, Genesis, tells us plainly that we (all of us, not some of us) are created in the image of God, and that God calls us (all of us, not some of us) “very good.” Unfortunately, we’ve perhaps heard this phrase so often that it has lost its wonder. We, you and I, whoever and wherever we are, are made in the image of the Divine. We are, essentially, very good, not very bad. We are loved by the One who loved us into being. As the mystic Meister Eckhart wrote, “The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.” We are called into being in joy, no matter what our human circumstances are. If we could ever really “get” that truth, and see that truth both in ourselves and in each other, we would understand how significant we truly are. We would ache to love back the One who loves us.
In Fr. Richard’s Rohr’s daily reflections, found at https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/ he quotes author Danielle Shroyer (Monday, October 25, 2021) on this theme of original goodness, the foundation of our sainthood. She writes:
Sin is not the primary thing that is true about us. Before we are anything else, we are made in God’s image, and we are made to reflect that image in the way we live. Before scripture tells us anything else about ourselves, it tells us we are good. I think that’s because that’s the way God intended it. When we ground ourselves in the fact that God created us good, we are capable of confronting all the other things that are true about us, even the difficult things. Love is tremendously healing. (from Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place)
Eventually, the Catholic Church and I parted ways. While there is much I still remember and revere about that tradition, there was much I also needed to let go. I discovered that in the Protestant tradition, we are all considered saints, or, at least, invited to grow more and more in the image of the loving Christ. Sainthood isn’t for the super elite but is available to each one of us. We, ordinary, flawed and human people walking our spiritual journeys, are already, now, part of a great “communion of saints” composed of those ordinary, flawed and human people who walked before us, are walking with us now, and will be part of the future. We don’t do this faith thing alone; in fact, we cannot. We need each other, in our ordinary, flawed sainthood, as we walk together toward the Light.
Thankful for ALL the saints ~ Rosemary firstname.lastname@example.org