Last Sunday, the Catholic Church declared Mother Teresa as an official “saint”. That’s right, 19 years after her death they concluded she fulfilled the requirements necessary to become St. Teresa of Kolkata. But here is what they didn’t say…
Of course, everyone knows the incredible sacrifice Mother Teresa made her entire life by living among the poorest of the poor in order to feed, clothe, and bring hope to extremely desperate situations. She was the embodiment of Matthew 25:31-46 when Jesus talked about the importance of helping the sick and needy. I think most of us would conclude this woman was a saint a long time ago and didn’t need 19 years of investigation to make that decision.
But then again, maybe you didn’t know that the Catholic Church has essentially a 5-step requirement process in order to become a saint (i.e. 5-year wait after death, 2 verified miracles, heroic virtue, etc.). So in the case of Mother Teresa, it took 19 years after her death to meet these requirements.
Now this may come as a shock to you, but here is the truth about this whole deal:
When you read through the New Testament, you quickly notice the term “saint” is used synonymously with being a Christian. For example, when the Apostle Paul wrote to all the Christians in Rome, his greeting stated, “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” (Romans 1:7). In other words, those who were “loved by God and called to be saints”, was the same group of people (i.e. Christians living in Rome). There are numerous New Testament examples of the term saint being used to refer to Christians (Acts 9:13, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Philippians 4:21-22, Colossians 1:4, Hebrews 13:24, etc.).
This means that being a saint isn’t something that is earned, it is something that is received from God. It is God who declares all Christians to be saints when they trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is Christ’s payment on the cross that makes a Christian holy (i.e. a saint). You can’t earn that title on your own (see my blog post, Hell No).
So when Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (i.e. Mother Teresa) became a Christian by trusting in Jesus as her Lord and Savior, she was also declared a saint by God. It doesn’t take a 5-step process, it takes a 2-step process of repentance and faith and is available to anyone at anytime. This is what the Gospel is all about! (Romans 10:9-10)
Yes, Mother Teresa leaves behind an incredible legacy of humility and sacrifice for others, but she also reminds us of our need for the cross and the eternal hope and sainthood that is only found in Christ.
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