Within the last week or so, I have heard more than one person respond “God willing” to another’s comment about someone becoming a saint. In one of these instances, one student piously responded, “God willing,” as a classmate said that maybe another classmate would be a saint someday. I redirected my student, saying, “Of course God wills it!” Indeed, He wills that each and every one of us become a saint, that each and every one of us be united with Him forever.
In fact, this is why He came to earth in the first place, taking on our human flesh: “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). He was born in order to die to save us from our sins and to rise to restore us to life with Him.
This week, the holiest week of the year, we celebrate — indeed, we re-live — these marvelous events of our salvation. We enter into the passion and death of our Lord. We encounter in a profoundly intimate way His infinite and yet personal love for each of us. We experience the truth that love — His love — is stronger than death (cf. Song 8:6).
The death we had earned by our sins, He took onto Himself. The weight we owed but were incapable of bearing, He bore in our stead. “He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. Upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole. By His wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5; from the first reading for Good Friday). In His sacrifice, we see the utter weight and the depth of evil of our sinfulness. We recognize that on our own, we could never have returned to God. And so God Himself came down to us, took on our guilt, suffered our death, and rose to conquer that death and raise us to new life.
It is because of His infinite love for each of us — His desire to draw each of us to Himself in a relationship of love, trust, and friendship — that He gave of Himself in this way. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend” (John 15:13). In the movie Mary of Nazareth, there is a moving scene in which Jesus asks His Mother, “Why did you do it?” referring to her “yes” at the Annunciation. Mary responds, “Out of love,” and Jesus says that it would be the same with everything else that would happen — particularly with His passion — that it, too, would be done “out of love.”
It is because of this love, which willed so much for us to be saints — to be blessed with Him in heaven forever — that He gave Himself as the grain of wheat (cf. John 12:24) and the sacrificial lamb (cf. Isaiah 53:7). It is this love that continues to work in our lives daily to sanctify us, to bring to effect the saving grace He won for us. Let us live always in utter gratitude for the immensity of His love for us and thus, through receiving and responding to that love, become great saints — as God wills it!
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.