God Has Called You to be a Great Saint
Tuesday September 21, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier St. Matthew the Apostle
Reading (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:9-13)
We hear the words of Saint Paul in this first reading. He says that he urges us to live in a manner worthy of the call that we have received, and then lays out how we have to live this with virtue – with humility, gentleness, and patience – bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the bond in the Holy Spirit, and so on. In other words, we are called to holiness. We are called to be saints. This is not something we can ignore or look at as something that is for a few; it is for each and every one of us.
Now we can also try to protest and suggest that we are not very holy ourselves, in fact we are quite sinful, and therefore it might not be possible for us to be able to live this way. Well, Saint Paul tells us that Christ has given us grace according to the measure of His gift, in other words, according to the measure of your call. According to the measure of the vocation to which He has called you, He has given you the grace to be able to live it. And so again, we look at that call and then we listen to the words of Our Lord in the Gospel: I have come to call sinners and not the righteous. He did not come and call you because you were so good, but just the opposite. So if any one of us wants to sit back and say, “I can’t be a saint because I’m too big of a sinner,” the Lord would respond by saying, “That’s exactly why I’ve called you to be a saint, because you are a sinner, because you were the least.” That is the precise point we have to understand.
We need to recognize too, then, that if we are going to protest and suggest we cannot do this that clearly it is not coming from the Lord. There is only one other place it is going to come from. It is a lie and it is straight from Satan, the idea that this cannot be done in you. It is true to say, “I cannot do it,” because we cannot; but with God’s grace we can – and only by His grace. That is the first thing we have to understand. We will never be able to do it by ourselves, but He can do this in us. That is exactly what He is asking of us.
He came and called as one of His apostles one of the people who would have been considered to be the worst of sinners: a tax collector. He looked at him and said, Follow Me, and Matthew got up, followed Him, and changed his life. Now He has come to each one of us and done the exact same thing. The question is whether or not we have responded like Matthew. If at this point we have not, it is not too late. Certainly, we could say, “But Matthew did it immediately and I didn’t.” True enough. However, God’s call, Saint Paul tells us, is irrevocable, and so He calls you still. It is not too late to answer. It is a matter on our part of the generosity we have to have toward God. When you look at the grace and the call, and you see that God does not change His mind – He has called you by name; He has called you to Himself; He has called you to be a saint – that means you have to do something similar to what Matthew did. You have to change your life. You have to put away the old and put on the new. You have to take on Christ and you have to grow in maturity, as Saint Paul says, to the fullness of Christ, to the full stature of the manhood of Christ. That is what each of us is called to.
When we look at somebody like Saint Paul himself, Saint Matthew, Saint Mary Magdalene, and many other saints that can be named, we realize that being a great saint is not anything that is beyond us; by ourselves, yes, but not beyond God. And God knows what He is doing. He has chosen you, He has called you, and He has given to you the grace to become a great saint.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.