The following quote is taken from an article entitled “Pope Recognizes Miracle Needed to Declare Mother Teresa a Saint” that recently appeared in “Catholic News Service” dated December 18, 2015. “Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, thus paving the way for her canonization. Pope Francis signed the decree for Blessed Teresa’s cause and advanced three other sainthood causes Dec. 17, the Vatican announced.” The article later goes on to say “St. John Paul II had made an exception to the usual canonization process in Mother Teresa’s case by allowing her sainthood cause to be opened without waiting the usual five years after a candidate’s death. He beatified her in 2003. (The entire article can be found at http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2015/pope-recognizes-miracle-needed-to-declare-mother-teresa-a-saint.cfm)
One can’t help but wonder how someone such as the pope can be such a well recognized religious leader and yet be so unlearned in the scriptures. The headline of the article states that the pope has recognized a miracle that was needed to declare mother Teresa a saint. Those familiar with the scriptures understand that the time of miracles has ceased. (See I Corinthians 13:8-13, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
For now, let’s consider that “Pope Francis” sees the miracle as a vital part of the process of declaring Mother Teresa a saint and that St. John Paul II had made an exception to the usual canonization process by allowing Mother Teresa’s cause to be opened without waiting the usual five years after a candidate’s death.
Is a person a saint only after someone else declares him to be a saint? Does someone become a saint only after he has been dead for a sufficient length of time? As with every other question of similar nature, let’s go to the scriptures for our answer.
In Acts 19:3, Ananias stated that he had heard of how Saul had “done much evil to the saints at Jerusalem.” Had Saul done much evil to those at Jerusalem who had already died? Of course not! The saints at Jerusalem were people who were very much alive at the time Paul had done evil unto them. In Acts 9:32 Peter came down to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. Did Peter come to those who had already died? No! They too were very much alive. Acts 26:10 tells us that Paul had put many of the saints in prison and later put them to death. Did Paul put people in prison who had already died? Obviously not! He put live people in prison. It was only later that he had them put to death. In Romans 12:13 Paul wrote of “distributing to the necessity of the saints.” Was Paul talking about taking care of the needs of those who had already died? Of course not. In Romans 15:5 Paul wrote of ministering unto the saints and in Romans 15:26 he wrote of a contribution that was made for the saints. In II Corinthians 1:1 Paul addressed his letter to all the saints that were at Achaia. Many, many other examples can be given but certainly these should be sufficient.
Numerous times the scriptures use the term “saints” to refer to Christians who were very much alive at the time. Who then, is a saint? The Bible uses the term saint to simply refer to anyone who is a Christian (Philippians 4:21-22). II Thessalonians 1:10 described God’s saints as “them that believed.” Unlike the pope, the scriptures do not limit this designation to someone who is of “exceptional holiness” or to someone who has died, having lived a life of exceptional acts that qualify him to be a saint.
Greek lexicons are in unanimous agreement that the word “saint” simply refers to someone who has been sanctified, or set apart, from the world. This sanctification, or setting apart, takes place when a person obeys the simple gospel of Christ. This obedience consists of a person hearing and believing the gospel of Christ (Romans 10:17, Mark 16:16), repenting of his sins (Acts 17:30), confessing his faith in Jesus Christ as his savior (Romans 10:9-10). Notice, though, that a person is not saved at the time of his confession. Romans 10:10 teaches that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. A person who confesses his faith in Christ is heading in the direction of his salvation, but he is not there yet. A person receives his salvation, and thus becomes a saint (sanctified by the blood of Christ) when he is baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16).
Because I am a Christian, I am a saint. I am sanctified, or set apart from the world, by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14, 29). I don’t have to die to become a saint. I am already a saint while alive on this earth. I am a saint, not because the pope has affirmed it to be so, but because Christ has affirmed it to be so through his gospel.