St. Augustine coined it centuries ago but Oscar Wilde popularized it when he said: “The only difference between a saint and a sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” What does that mean? It means that everyone who has been a Saint was, at one time, something less than saintly. Every person who was made a saint was once an ordinary Joe or Mary just like the rest of us. No one is born into “Sainthood.”
Leaders in biblical times
Just this week someone sent me the following one line resumes for pastors in biblical times …
Adam: Good man, but has problems with his wife.
Joseph: A big thinker, but a braggart. Interprets dreams. Has a prison record.
David: The most promising candidate of all, until we discovered the affair he had with a neighbor’s wife.
Solomon: Great preacher, but serious woman problems.
Jonah: Told us he was swallowed by a huge fish. He said the fish later spit him out on the shore near here. We hung up.
Amos: Backward and unpolished. With some seminary training, he might have promise; but he has a problem with wealthy people.
John: Says he’s a Baptist, but doesn’t dress like one. Sleeps in the outdoors, has a weird diet, and provokes denominational leaders.
Paul: Powerful CEO type and fascinating preacher. But he’s short on tact, unforgiving with young ministers, harsh, and has been known to preach all night.
Timothy: Too young.
Judas: His references are solid. A steady plodder. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. We’re inviting him to preach this Sunday with great hopes that he will accept our offer!
An evaluation of the early Vincent, Louise and Frederic
Today, for lack of better terms we speak of Vincent I and Vincent II to capture the change in Vincent who in his early life seemed to be more concerned with “What’s in it for me” rather than the later Vincent who focused on “What’s in it for people who are poor?”
We try to understand the impact of Louise’s “Pentecost” experience. Much has been written about the impact of Frederic being taken aback by an atheist’s question and how his horizons were changed and broadened as he walked the slums with Rosalie Rendu.
Implications for you and me
Today we are intellectually more sophisticated in recognizing that for most the path to holiness was a journey of many conversion moments. But do we really believe it in our own hearts?
Ordinary saints are people who see something bigger than themselves and don’t succumb to the nay-sayers, the sarcasm and cynicism, so prevalent in our culture today. Ordinary saints are people like us who may be flawed and imperfect but strive to bring God’s light into the dark places of our world and God’s light into the shadows of the wounded souls around us. Ordinary saints “do not let their past dictate their future.”
You think you only possess a small light? We are challenged, especially in Lent, you to uncover it and let it shine through you to bring more light and compassion into the hearts and minds of persons you encounter every day. “Every saint has a past….and every sinner has a future.” God will not let “your past dictate your future.” Be bold, be brave, and share the goodness and compassion God has planted in your hearts. And remember St. Paul’s admonition: “In Jesus Christ we are a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” Amen. 2Corinthians 5: 16-21.