Saints in the more conventional sense are seen as historical figures whose lives have become examples to enlighten and encourage the faithful. Role models and spiritual guides. In its thirst for role models society has given birth to an obsession with celebrity. A celebrity by definition exhibits traits that should be celebrated. If we look more closely at those whom society has deemed to be worth celebrating we are often left wondering about societyís priorities. The power of the media is such that a celebrity can be brought into the consciousness of the nation, and sometimes the world, in a very short space of time. Through achievement in sport or entertainment these people become household names. Their lives are then subjected to microscopic investigation and very quickly the noble characteristics which were thought worthy of celebrating are mixed with and often eclipsed by the more human and less worthy aspects of their lives. In this way the ideals of society become clouded and lose direction. Conventional saints have undergone the thorough investigation of the church before being held up to be celebrated as Christian role models. Very few of them would have experienced the fame and fortune of celebrity status in their own lifetime. We view their lives through the filter of time, which may well be a rose tinted filter, cutting out any less savoury side to their personalities so that we only focus on the good. There is no such filter protecting us from the subliminal messages of modern celebrity.
We are in Church today because we are Christians, and as Christians we are Children of God, followers of the way, disciples, or, in the words of the Psalmist, His Saints. That is an awesome responsibility. It challenges the validity of a private faith where we keep our spiritual side safely contained, not allowing it to leak out into the secular world, but keeping it alive through study and church attendance away from the gaze of those we work or socialise with, for fear of ridicule or persecution. To be openly religious is actively discouraged in our society. With the fear of racial tension, indoctrination, and with so much cynicism and mistrust in strongly held beliefs there are so many conflicting and contradictory messages either overtly or covertly being voiced that those desperately in need of spiritual direction in their lives become either totally bewildered or more often totally switched off and unreceptive to the possibilities of faith. Assemblies at our own school in Ilfracombe are widely seen as boring, out of touch and irrelevant to teenage life.
So who can challenge this spiritual void in our society? Who can engage others and show them the relevance of the spiritual dimension of their lives? As Saints of the church this is our task. For Christianity to be understood and relevant to the young it must not be just a book learning exercise. To understand what it is to be a Christian person is easier if you know Christian people. All those who are identified as Christian in the world around a young person are instrumental in the forming of their opinions and attitudes towards Christianity. Most would agree that to be Christian is a mixture of being and doing. It is being sure of the redeeming grace and provision that God has promised us, being convinced that Godís plan for the world is worth striving for, being open to his presence in nature and in all encounters with others. It is being ĎChildren of God.í To be Christian is also to do Christian things. It is doing what we believe God calls us to do, to pray, to study the scriptures for Godís perspective in our lives, to help others, to worship as part of a worshipping community, to act with compassion and integrity. What picture of Christianity do others get from us, the way we are and the things we do?
Although called to be saints we are after all human, with human weakness and frailty, we are susceptible to greed, pride, envy and all those flaws that we are quick to identify in characters from the soaps. We, like all our species, cannot live perfection. But in following the way of our Lord we know we must at least strive for it. If we donít aim for perfection, simply because we donít believe it can be achieved, then we have already failed in the struggle to bring Godís kingdom to fruition on earth. As Children of God, we must work to purify ourselves, so that the example we set is worthy of the God we worship. As Children of God we must work to bring his light openly to the world around us, not being afraid to speak up for our beliefs even when we know we may suffer ridicule and persecution. And as Children of God we know that our reward in heaven will be great, that we shall see God as he is and that we will join all the saints who gather round the throne.