"Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else." (2 Corinthians 9:13)
The ultimate goal for Christians is to live a life which generates praise for God.
A life that others can see, and can’t help but exclaim, “Thank you, God!”
I believe this is all that the saints did — we look to them and can’t help but feel a path opening up to God, suddenly closer to the Divine Source. When we learn about their lives, in a book or movie (or through a conversation over tea with a friend), we can't help but praise God. The saints generated praise for God all throughout their lives, and even, especially, after death.
It’s incredible that some saints left such an impact on others, that a simple, inadvertent action of theirs turned souls directly to God. I think of accounts of sinners who simply locked eyes with Padre Pio and encountered a profound, irreversible experience (some left shaking, crying, or begging God for mercy).
I’m sure after sharing a meal, shaking someone’s hand, a letter, gesture, or a simple conversation, the saints left people saying, “Thank you, God.” They lived so authentically, so purely in union with God, that these small actions evangelized and expanded God’s Kingdom.
Of course, we can’t forget all the fruit of their bountiful work on Earth, which generates so much goodness in the world decades and centuries after. This work is so important.
But it's their witness, their “confession of the Gospel of Christ” in life, which counts the most. I am sure the saints, alongside their known work, lived a mosaic of minute moments of generating praise to God — there must be countless stories of this phenomenon, whether silent and kept sacred in the hearts of those they touched, or overt and shared emotively for others to see.
When we live fully and totally in God, even when we hold someone’s hand others will praise God, even when we simply look them in the eye. Should this not be our goal? The mission of our life at its core? To move throughout the world generating praise for God? To have all those who encounter you sing praises to the Almighty!
This idea has roots in the words of St. Paul in the passage quoted above, as he urges the early Christians of Corinth to generate praise to God through their actions. However, it also emerges, and re-emerges at other points in Scripture. Another verse from St. Paul, this time from 1 Corinthians, for example, captures this “commission” concisely:
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Turning furthermore to Jesus, He directly speaks about this, calling us each to live such a life in the Gospel of Matthew:
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
When we live our faith fully, when we testify with our actions, it leads the way to God. It is the ultimate confession of the Gospel of Christ. May thankfulness to Him increase and overflow through His faithful here on Earth!