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Tony Rossi

Radio Host/Producer

Powerball and the Road to Sainthood

You may remember that Powerball fever swept the nation earlier this year because the jackpot reached a whopping $1.6 billion! Optimistic winner-wannabes stood in line for hours to buy a ticket as the amount kept getting bigger and bigger. The one fact everyone ignored was that the likelihood of winning was incredibly small (though I guess that didn’t matter to the three people who wound up splitting the prize).

CBS News reported that you have a higher chance of getting struck by lightning than winning the Powerball. Then, they added another statistic: you have a higher chance at “achieving sainthood” than winning the Powerball billion. It’s likely that CBS meant being canonized a saint, like we saw with Mother Teresa recently. But sainthood in general is far more achievable than winning the lottery because it’s not a game of luck; there’s actually choice involved, along with a good helping of God’s grace.

As All Saints Day approaches, it’s a good time to remember what we Catholics believe about the afterlife: namely, that people who’ve died and made it to heaven are considered saints. All of them, not just the ones who are publicly canonized. That means your mom, dad, grandma or grandpa could be a saint right now and praying for you to join them some day.

While TV and movies have often led us to believe that people become angels when they die, that’s more of an entertaining storytelling device than actual theology. Angels are actually spiritual beings directly created by God. Sainthood, on the other hand, is a state toward which everyone can strive.

In a broad sense, that road to sainthood comes down to the way Jesus sums up the law of God in Mark 12:28-31: “One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, he asked Him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

In other words, both faith and action are needed. They may not always be easy to live out, but nurturing a relationship with God through prayer and other means can help us along the way. And if we keep our eyes open, the grace we need will likely be there to help us, too. No canonized saint was ever perfect, and we’ll never be perfect either. But when saints fall, they realize their mistake, atone for their sin, and move forward in the right direction.

For instance, there’s St. Paul, who was responsible for the murder of many early Christians before his dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus. And St. Augustine of Hippo led a life of arrogant pride and immorality before offering his mind, heart and soul to God, thanks in part to the Letters of St. Paul and the prayers of his mother, St. Monica.

So if you plan on standing in line to buy a lottery ticket at some point, feel free. But also remember to turn your mind to the more achievable goal of sainthood. As the old saying goes, “The pay may not be much, but the retirement plan is out of this world.”

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, FROM SINNERS TO SAINTS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org