Saints: A Study in Honor of Mother Teresa
The Holy Family, Friends, and Twelve Apostles
|Luke 1:41-56, St. Mary, mother of Jesus: Study scripture|
|Matthew 1:18-25, 2:13-15, 2:19-23, St. Joseph: Put obedience before convenience|
|Luke 2:21-35, St. Simeon: Wait for the LORD’s good time|
|Luke 2:36-40, St. Anna: Be a prayer warrior|
|Matthew 2:1-12, Sts. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar: Act on God’s message|
|John 18:17-27; Acts 2:29-36, 3:11-16, St. Peter: Learn from your mistakes|
|John 1:35-45, 12:20-22, Sts. Andrew & Philip: Bring people to Jesus|
|John 20:1-8, 30-31, 21:20-25, St. John: Believe|
|John 11:7-16, 14:1-6, 20:24-29, St. Thomas: Stand fast in the face of doubt|
|Luke 5:27-32, St. Matthew: Tell everybody you know|
|Matthew 10:1-7; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:12-17, 20-26, Sts. James the Greater (brother of John), James the Less (son of Alphaeus), Judas Thaddeus (not Iscariot), Bartholomew, Simon the Zealot, & Matthias: Show up
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Today we start a study topic chosen in honor of St. Teresa of Calcutta. We all knew even while she was alive that Mother Teresa was headed for sainthood on the fast track. We now know the minimum possible time for canonization in the modern Roman Catholic Church: 18 years, 11 months, 30 days. Catholics and Protestants view saints differently (in fact, Protestants vary in their doctrine on saints), but all of us could tell that she was a very holy woman. Roman Catholics venerate saints; United Methodists strive to learn from some of the saints; I hope that I can occasionally emulate saints – that is, imitate them and become more like them.
The Bible used “saints” as a word for “Christians” before the word “Christians” was coined. This study looks at some of the saints mentioned in the New Testament who are also recognized as “Saints” by the modern Church, with the idea that these especially holy people are worthy of emulation in our daily lives. United Methodists are always “going on to perfection,” and we could do worse than to follow the example of these holy forefathers and foremothers in the faith.
Luke 1:41-56, St. Mary, mother of Jesus: Study scripture (9/12/16)
Saint Mary is more commonly called the Virgin Mary. One thing that strikes me about Mary is that she was very knowledgeable about scripture. Not only did her sons (Jesus, James, and Jude) quote scripture frequently, but she herself quoted and alluded to scripture in her Song. I’ve put in some references for you so that you can see how much of what she said was drawn from her own study of the holy word of God. Scriptural study is a path to holiness.
Extract from the English Standard Version:
Matthew 1:18-25, 2:13-15, 2:19-23, St. Joseph: Put obedience before convenience (9/13/16)
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, [Isaiah 61:10, Habakkuk 3:18, 1 Samuel 2:1]
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant [1 Samuel 1:11]. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed [Genesis 30:13];
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me [Psalms 126:3], and holy is his name [Psalms 111:9].
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation [Psalms 103:17].
51 He has shown strength with his arm [Psalms 89:10]; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate [Job 5:11];
53 he has filled the hungry with good things [Psalms 107:9], and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy [Psalms 98:3],
55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever [Isaiah 41:8-9].”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
I’d be glad to do whatever God wants me to do, providing
- it doesn’t require air travel,
- it doesn’t interfere with my schedule, and
- it doesn’t involve a lot of expense.
St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, was a holier person than I am. He went ahead and married Mary on God’s assurance that she was with child by the Holy Spirit. Not long after that, maybe two years, he left his house and his business, took his little family, and traveled a long
way – probably like two or three weeks’ distance – and set up shop in another country, again following God’s instructions. Then a few years after that –
just about the time he had settled down in Egypt, he got the word to go back, again abandoning his home and business to start over in a new city. And he did! St. Joseph teaches us that obedience to God is more important than our own convenience.
Luke 2:21-35, St. Simeon: Wait for the LORD’s good time (9/14/16)
St. Simeon is typically depicted as an older man, probably because in vs. 29 he is ready to “depart in peace” after seeing the salvation – Jesus – that the Lord had prepared for Israel. Another reason, I think, is that he has been waiting
. We don’t know how long he’s been waiting, but certainly long enough for Luke’s sources to comment on it.
Most of us aren’t very good at waiting. In the words of the old joke, we want patience, and we want it now. But sometimes the Lord isn’t able to give us something right now, even if he wants to. Maybe it depends on another person, who isn’t ready. Maybe it depends on us
, and we
aren’t ready! And maybe, as in this case of St. Simeon waiting for the birth of Jesus, it just isn’t time yet. St. Simeon gives us an example of holy patience in waiting for the Lord’s time.
Luke 2:36-40, St. Anna: Be a prayer warrior (9/15/16)
Widows have a tough row to hoe in any time or place, but their lot in first-century Judea could be especially hard if they had no children. Anna the prophetess was a widow, and I presume (Luke doesn’t say) that she did not have the means of supporting herself. But what a support she must have been to others! She spent all her time at the Temple, worshipping and praying “night and day.” By the time she saw Jesus, she had probably spent around 60 years
in full-time prayer! Most of us have other responsibilities to distract us; we can’t spend full time in prayer at our church or synagogue. We probably could spend more time in prayer, however, following the example of this holy prayer warrior, St. Anna.
Matthew 2:1-12, Sts. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar: Act on God’s message (9/16/16)
The Bible does not say how many magi
came to visit the baby Jesus. The Western Church has traditionally numbered them as three; in the Eastern Church they are often numbered as twelve, according to wikipedia. Matthew, the only Gospel to mention them, does not give their names or say specifically where they were from. Matthew calls them magi, or scholars, not kings, and doesn’t even say for certain that they were all men, although I admit they probably were.
Therefore we should consider Sts. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar to be a little iffy as the real names of the people who visited the baby. I think of these saints, whose names were apparently were assigned around the seventh century, as stand-ins for whatever magi were actually there. What we should learn from the idea
of these three saints is that when we receive a message from God, we need to act on it.
John 18:17-27; Acts 2:29-36, 3:11-16, St. Peter: Learn from your mistakes (9/19/16)
We all know the story of Peter’s denial that he had been associated with or even knew Jesus. We also need to remember that only a few weeks later, Peter was the spokesman for the disciples. Far from denying that he knew Jesus, he vigorously maintained in front of crowds and before the Sanhedrin not only that he knew him, but that he and the other disciples had been witnesses of an amazing thing: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. St. Peter shows us not only that we can learn from our mistakes, but that we can put our new knowledge to work powerfully in the kingdom of God.
John 1:35-45, 12:20-22, Sts. Andrew & Philip: Bring people to Jesus (9/20/16)
My Greek teacher was a natural-born evangelist who made converts wherever he went; he even made converts while running marathons. He took after Andrew and Philip. There isn’t a great deal recorded about either of these disciples of Jesus, but when we do see them, they are bringing people to Jesus. I believe I once made a convert by accident, but maybe I need to do more to follow the example of Sts. Andrew and Philip in introducing people to Jesus.
John 20:1-8, 30-31, 21:20-25, St. John: Believe (9/21/16)
The Gospel of John is all about belief
. John presents only nine miracles, but each miracle is accompanied by a discussion of what it means and a conclusion that some of the onlookers believed, and some didn’t. John himself saw the empty graveclothes and believed. He wrote his gospel so that you may believe. His friends vouch that his testimony is true; again the assurance is that you can believe what you have read. St. John’s lesson for us is simple to understand, but sometimes extraordinarily difficult to do: believe.
John 11:7-16, 14:1-6, 20:24-29, St. Thomas: Stand fast in the face of doubt (9/22/16)
I admit that Thomas and John are my favorite disciples, which is a little odd, come to think of it. I said yesterday that John is all about belief. Thomas is all about doubt – but a specific kind of doubt: hanging in there even when
you doubt. After her death, we learned that Mother Teresa went through a period of many years when she was torn by doubt. But you know what? She never let her doubt stand in the way of her calling. Thomas has so much doubt that he thinks he’s going to die
, but he says to the other disciples, “Fine! If Jesus insists on going to Jerusalem, let’s go and die with him!” Jesus doesn’t criticize Thomas for honest doubt; he reassures him. St. Thomas’s example teaches us that honest doubt is okay, but we should be steadfast, even when we doubt.
Luke 5:27-32, St. Matthew: Tell everybody you know (9/23/16)
Levi is better known to us by the name of Matthew. St. Matthew’s lesson to us is simple: tell everybody you know about Jesus! He started with a party for all his friends, and he went on to write one of the four Gospels.
Matthew 10:1-7; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:12-17, 20-26, Sts. James the Greater (brother of John), James the Less (son of Alphaeus), Judas Thaddeus (not Iscariot), Bartholomew, Simon the Zealot, & Matthias: Show up (9/26/16)
How many people would be in your church choir if you only allowed members who have the ability to be soloists? We’ve looked at the “soloists” among the disciples: Peter, Andrew, John, Philip, Thomas, and Matthew. There are six other disciples about whom we know very little, because they are names in a list. The list occurs three times, but still, all we know is that they showed up.
The interesting thing to me is that when Peter decides that they need a replacement for Judas Iscariot, they immediately think of at least two additional men who “have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us.” They were there all the time
, along with the other five disciples who showed up without getting a lot of glory.
The non-soloists in our choirs – and all the rest of us who are present and working without getting a lot of glory – follow the holy example of Sts. James the Greater (brother of John), James the Less (son of Alphaeus), Judas Thaddeus (not Iscariot), Bartholomew, Simon the Zealot, and Matthias when we show up
More of Saints of the Bible
The Holy Family, Friends and Twelve Apostles
Other Apostles, Evangelists and Deacons
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