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serving jesus christ the king

To Beatify or not to Beatify

This past week saw Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain. The reaction to his visit covered the whole spectrum of opinion, from euphoric delight to outright opposition with probably the majority of people in Britain adopting the middle ground of indifference. One of the main reasons for the Pope’s visit was to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the former Church of England minister who, in 1845, joined the Catholic church. This is the penultimate step in Newman being canonised and declared a saint. As such he then can be venerated, and can be prayed to.

The event makes sense in a religious framework where the better you do, the closer to God you are. And the closer to God you are, surely the more likely God is to hear your prayers than the prayers of an ordinary follower. The idea is appealing, perhaps because we see an ordinary person doing really well and receiving this sign of ultimate acceptance, or perhaps we feel that God would never hear our prayers directly, so its good to have someone saintly to pray on our behalf.

Interestingly though, when we look at the Bible we see that every true Christian is a saint. It is not the privilege of some elite class, who have lived especially holy lives or done notable good deeds. Instead the Bible teaches that it is Jesus who makes us saints (literally holy ones) when we stop trying to build up our own holiness, and accept the holiness that he is offering as a gift. Dressed in this holiness we are then forgiven and able to stand before a Holy God. In Hebrews 10:10 we read, “we have been made holy (made saints) through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ.”

This is the stunning truth that comes from Jesus’ work on the Cross. If we ask him to take away our sin, and to cover us with his holiness we are declared saints (holy) from that moment on. As a saint every Christian has the privilege of speaking directly to God, their loving Father, in prayer. They don’t need any other intermediary.

Because of Jesus, the Christian is as close to God as it is possible to be. And because of the great change the that Jesus makes, the Christian then seeks to live a holy life. The Bible’s truth is magnificent –God makes ordinary, everyday people his saints, giving them direct access into his presence. It is not an event in the future that we aspire to, but a present reality for all who trust in God’s Son.