Saint Augustine has referred to the Sermon on the Mount as the “charter of the whole Christian life.”
The first part of the Sermon, the Beatitudes, is proclaimed at Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints. Pope Benedict XVI teaches that the Beatitudes, taken together like so many brushstrokes, form a picture for us of Jesus Christ. And to this extent it needs to be said that the call to holiness we all share demands that we strive to live all of the Beatitudes. We can’t pick some and ignore others, or the picture of Christ in us will be distorted.
At the same time, the exact composition of the Beatitudes will be different in each of us. The Church’s roster of saints, the whole of which we celebrate on All Saints, is proof of this. The Book of Revelation presents us with “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” This text points to the wondrous variety of of the saints.
But the variety of their vocations also distinguishes the saints. All of them—the glorious company of apostles, the noble fellowship of prophets, the white-robed army of martyrs, and so on—lived all of the Beatitudes. But they did so with varying degrees of emphasis depending upon their various vocations.
Going back to St. Augustine for a moment, in his Confessions the saint writes that he wanted to go into contemplative life after the ideal of Greek philosophy, but was called forth by the bishop of Hippo and “constrained to receive ordination.” Augustine continued, “Terrified by my sins and the weight of my misery, I had resolved in my heart, and meditated flight into the wilderness; but you forbade me and gave me strength, by saying: ‘Christ died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died’ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15).”
And the vocations of the saints aren’t only different in the most basic way, that some were priests, some religious, some rulers of nations, some parents, martyrs, virgins, etc. The details of their lives were also very different from each other, and that’s where I want to zoom in and sharpen the focus on our own lives.
We are each called by God to some particular vocation, and even compared with others who share our vocation, it will take a somewhat different shape in each of our lives. Which is to say that the call to become a saint will take a somewhat different shape in each of our lives.
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