Becoming Saints

6 March 2007: Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Lent
Matthew 23, 1-12 Becoming saints
Ronnie Angelo Duñgo, SJ

Note: On Tuesday mornings at 6:30, I preside over the mass of the Jesuit Juniors & Philosophers. The scholastics take turns in giving the homilies or sharings. This is one of them.

How young I was at the period of my youthful Lenten crisis then, I do not remember. Young enough to crawl beneath the pews. Short enough to stand up on the seats of pews, when the congregation arose to sing hymns, and still be hidden. Old enough to want to see Jesus. Young enough to believe that the mortal eye could see Jesus. I wanted to see Jesus. There was the core of my crisis. I mean, see him as eyewitnesses are able to see: his robe and the rope at his waist, his square, strong hands, the sandals on his feet, his tumble of wonderful hair, and the love in his eyes, deep love in his eyes-for me! For it seemed to me in those days that everyone else in my parish must be seeing him on a regular basis, and that I alone was denied the sight of my Lord. They were a contented people, confident and unconcerned. I, on the other hand, I felt like a little Cain among the Christians, from whom the dear Lord Jesus chose to hide particularly. No one seemed to tremble in the Holy House of the Lord. But I … Well, the knowledge of my peculiar exile came all in a rush one Sunday, when the priest was preaching a mumbling monotone of a sermon. One sentence leaped from his mouth and seized me: “We were eyewitnesses,” he said. Eyewitnesses. We! I sat straight up and tuned my ear. This seemed, suddenly, the special ability of a special people to which the priest belonged: to be eyewitnesses. Who are these we? What did they see? I glanced at my seatmate, whose expression was not astonished. Evidently, eyewitnessing was familiar stuff to her. She was one of the we. I took a fast survey of the faces behind me. Sleepy-eyed, dull-eyed, thoughtful-eyed; but no one’s eyes were dazzled….

Yes, even those sleepy ones are called to be a saint by being an eyewitness… in The Autobiography, we learn that reading the lives of saints transformed him, provided him with a new horizon of life, and challenged him about the exalted destiny of service of Christ our Lord. This awareness has become part of our Jesuit heritage – of Jesuit heritage as Roger Hazelton puts it…

“There is need today for a theology of courage – of holy daring, saintly boldness – which may serve to justify the way of human beings with what has immemorially been called God.”

The church in every age needs models, people in whom the passion and victory of Jesus Christ are palpably manifest. As Christians, we are all called to be saints, but there are some who have been specially chosen by God to make a public witness that patently reveals the judgment of God upon human sin. We are all called to radiate the light of Christ, but only some are given the privilege of bearing this light in the face of open and flagrant opposition. We are all expected to take up the cross and follow Christ, but only some carry a cross that poses a direct challenge to the principalities and powers of the world. Only some therefore can be considered saints in the special sense of being public signs of the passion and victory of Jesus Christ. But there are those called to be an eyewitness… to be a new kind of saints.

This lent offers us all a very special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to a way of life, rooted in our baptism. Lent provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon our patterns, to pray more deeply, and heed the call to be a new kind of saint.

*Scholastic Ronnie Dungo SJ.

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