Those unfamiliar with the liturgical tradition sometimes ask us “what’s the point of Saints’ Days?” After all, we worship the Lord God of all creation, who became flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, who lived a perfect and sinless life, who kept and fulfilled the Law, who is our perfect example of love and obedience. With such a great Savior and King to celebrate, why ever turn our eyes any lower?
As Saint Matthew’s Day approaches tomorrow, we find an example of why celebrating the Saints is worth our time. In the Communion service for that Major Feast Day we read in Matthew 9 of the time Jesus called Matthew from his work as a corrupt tax collector. The Collect of the Day (or, our traditional theme-prayer) describes and applies this to Christian life:
Lord Jesus, you called Matthew from collecting taxes to become your apostle and evangelist; grant us the grace to forsake all covetous desires and the pursuit of inordinate riches, so that we may also follow you as he did and proclaim to the world around us the good news of your salvation; who lives and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Jesus is our great and perfect example, yes, but in our sinfulness we also need examples of what repentance looks like, what it means to “forsake all covetous desires” and follow Christ. So we celebrate Saints, not because they were “perfect,” but precisely because they were imperfect, and show us what the work of Christ does in us.