The name Mother Theresa is synonymous with self-sacrifice and kindness. She was recognized and revered around the world for over half a century of ministry to the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick in Calcutta, India, as founder of the Missionaries of Charity. Despite her years of service and despite being recognized as a Saint by the Catholic church in 2016, it is clear that she suffered through years of darkness and doubt. In a collection of her personal letters published posthumously in a 2009 book called Come Be My Light, she expressed her doubts about God and feelings of hypocrisy, despite her lifetime of service.
We lost my Aunt just after Christmas of last year. I grew up just across the yard from her house. To me, she was a constant source of unconditional love and unwavering support. Without her generosity I would never have experienced such a happy, stable childhood or been afforded opportunities for education and home ownership. Despite all of these traits, it became clear over time that she was not a perfect person, even though, in my mind, she was a saint.
In his 2018 book Reason for God, Timothy Keller describes the holier-than-thou attitudes some Christians take and how the rest of the world rightly sees those attitudes as hypocritical. The Apostle Peter not only denied his Lord three times, but also hypocritically refused to associate with Gentile believers.
The works of Flannery O’Connor, as well as those of the Apostle Paul both point out that, as Christians, we are both sinners and saints at the same time.
Paul wrote in a somewhat convoluted passage in Romans 7:15-20 (NIV) that:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
What is the common thread running through all of these brief anecdotes? They all point to the fact that even “extraordinary” saints have quite ordinary failings and imperfections. Is this an excuse to throw our hands up and say, “Oh well, nobody’s perfect!” and continue on our way? By no means! While we seek, with God’s help, to follow Christ’s perfect example, it brings comfort to us (or at least to me) to know that even those recognized for their saintly lives had ordinary, garden variety, everyday faults and concerns. It is good to know that all saints are everyday saints.
Submitted by Keith Harris