What does it mean to be a saint?
The literal meaning of the word is "holy". Holy people, objects, and creatures are those things that we believe to have been marked by God in a particular way. This might be a place, like natural fountains, that heal those who bathe in and drink from their waters. A holy fountain. Or they might be people in whom we see clearly the reflection of Christ in the world. To be holy, to be a saint, is to be seen by others as evidence of the truth of God's presence in our midst.
Saints are not perfect. Saints are everyday folks, just like you and me, in whom others saw Christ clearly and consistently. There are many wonderful stories of holy people with bad tempers (St James "the Son of Thunder", St Jerome), who are clever and more than a bit snarky (St Scholastica, St Anselm of Canterbury), and more than a few who are suspected of being mad (St Antony, St Joan of Arc). These are not perfect people by any stretch, but they are people who unmistakably reflected the grace, truth, and holiness of Christ in the world around them.
St Paul calls all Christians saints. He writes to "the saints in Rome" or, in another translation, to "God's beloved in Rome who are called to be saints". Our brother Paul has the idea that anyone who has been baptized is a saint. Or, at least, on their way to being a saint. Like so much of Christian life, becoming a saint is a process rather than a single, magical moment. I believe St Paul has it right, here.
One of the Church's traditions is to hold up All Saints' Day as an ideal day for baptisms. If there is nobody to be baptized, many congregations will renew their own baptismal promises and covenant on this day. We do this on the day that we remember all of the Communion of the Saints because, in baptism, we have joined our lives to the life of Christ and, through Christ, to the lives of all of the saints.
We believe that in the waters of baptism our life ends. Whatever life that was entirely ours alone at birth is left behind in the water and, when we emerge dripping wet on the other side, we have been given a new life. The new life is one that we share with Christ. There is nothing about us that can be separated from Christ because we share that life. But it also means, that if I share my life with Christ and you share yours with Christ, then you and I also share a life. And we share a life with every Christian who is alive today and who has ever lived, including every one of the saints.
These holy people who reflected Christ so clearly in their lives are our siblings, our aunties and uncles, our grandparents, our great extended family held together through the family tree that holds Christ on its branches. We are joined in baptism to the same crucifixion, the same resurrection, the same ascension, and the same promise of glory in eternal life made possible through God in Jesus Christ.
And today, on All Saints' Day, we pause to remember all of those who are inspirations to us, who are beloved, who have shown us what it means to be a Christian, to be a "little Christ". We remember that, in this race we are all running, even when holiness and sainthood seem to be impossibly far away, there are those who have already crossed the finish line cheering us on. Our extended, holy family who see us, who share our struggles and our worries and our failings. People, just like you and me, who are reminders that being a holy saint doesn't mean being perfect, it means being faithful to Christ.
For all of the saints in every age, thanks be to God.