“Do you want to become a saint?” That was the very first line I saw in a vocation promotion pamphlet of my religious congregation many years ago. My response then was a passionate, enthusiastic, and fervent “Yes” that led me to join the congregation a short while later. I was definitely spurred on then by the heroic examples of holiness by my favorite saints.
Do I still want to be saint today? Yes, I still desire to be saint but I honestly admit that the passion and the fervor seem to have faded somewhat. Maybe we too have at one point in our lives had a passionate desire for holiness but now find our passion for holiness fading fast.
What kills our passion and enthusiasm for holiness? It may be our personal struggles, repeated sins and failures, scandalous behavior of those whom we looked up to in the Christian life, difficulties of life, the pain and suffering of the Christian life, greater self-knowledge that shows us that we are far from being as holy as we thought we were, etc.
These reasons show that we are losing our passion for holiness because we think that holiness is something that we do or achieve by our effort. We think that we become holy if we say the right prayers, follow a particular rule or code of conduct, belong to particular group, overcome a sinful habit, etc. As long as our focus is on ourselves and our performance, then we will surely lose our passion for holiness and be overcome by discouragement.
On the contrary, Christian holiness, that fullness of divine life and perfection of charity, is attained by simply disposing ourselves to receive and experience the holiness of God that He is offering us in His Son, Jesus Christ, through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. The focus is on God as we allow His actual graces to dispose us to receive His sanctifying grace that makes us holy. St. Ignatius of Loyola describes the need for such disposition in these words:
“There are very few who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves entirely into His hands, and let themselves be formed by His grace…Many people who, we see, now scarcely live as Christians, do not understand that they could become saints, if they would let themselves be formed by the grace of God, if they did not ruin His plans by resisting the work which He wants to do.”
John the Baptist was a “messenger sent ahead of Christ, to prepare His way.” Though he “proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin,” and all went out to him, “and were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sin,” the Baptist’s mission was not to make them holy but to dispose them for the holiness that Christ alone brings. His baptism and their confessing their sins could not take away sins but only served to remind them of their sinfulness and their need for a savior and His own holiness.
John the Baptist knew that that there was nothing that he could do on his own to bestow holiness on them. Everything that he said and did – his preaching, baptism, dressing, food – was to remind them of the urgency of the Messiah’s return and their need to be properly disposed to receive His own holiness. That is why he finally attested after all he had done and said, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of His sandals. I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus Christ is the truly Holy One, the One who bears in Himself the Holy Spirit and imparts to us this same Spirit of holiness from above. We only have to dispose ourselves to receive this holiness that Christ longs to work and achieve in us in and through the circumstances and events of our lives.
The following are some dispositions that we must have to experience the holiness of Christ?
First, we must have complete trust in God always because God desires our holiness in all that He does and permits in our lives, “This is the will of God for you: your sanctification.”(1Thes 3:4) Because God desires our holiness more than we do, He will surely make us holy in His own way if we remain properly disposed. This is why we must trust in His merciful love, divine grace, and unceasing plan for our sanctification. His mysterious plan for our ongoing sanctification and salvation is present and effective today even as we face the Covid-19 pandemic.
Secondly, we continue to make effort to be open and docile to His grace no matter the lack of visible results because God is patient with us, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day…He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Our effort at ongoing repentance and giving ourselves to God is a sign of our goodwill towards Him. We too must be patient with ourselves and with others as we make effort for holiness.
Thirdly, we persevere till the end because our wicked world is passing away. While we strive to “conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion,” we also wait for a “new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” A time will come when holiness will prevail over evil and godlessness. God will make His holiness triumph in us and in the world in His own time if we maintain our proper disposition.
No matter how far we have fallen from His grace, our desire for holiness remains in us always because God has loved that desire into us. We can only hunger and thirst for more of what we have already received and experienced. Our desire for holiness is like a homing device by which God calls us back to Him after we have accepted the truth that there is nothing that we can do on our own to make us holy or to bestow this holiness on others.
This is why our vocation as members of the Church is to be constantly disposed for holiness ourselves and to help others to develop the same disposition. This is how we are to build up the body of Christ and “hasten the coming of the day of the Lord.”
Some recent episodes in the Church call us to really examine our fidelity to this mission to spread this right disposition for holiness. Are we disposing ourselves for holiness when we hear more of scandals and cover up in the Church than we hear of humble acceptance of errors and sincere ongoing repentance from sin? How can we be disposed for holiness when we are so busy pretending we are sinless and immaculate? Are we disposing others for holiness when members of the hierarchy now campaign for civil status for same-sex couples?
Are we disposing others for holiness when we hand out the Eucharist like free food samples in the mall by giving Holy Communion to people in adulterous relationships and radical and avowed pro-abortion politicians? Shouldn’t we rather dispose them for the fruitful reception of holiness from the sacraments by helping them to form their consciences well according to the truths of the faith, and then confess their sins with true sorrow and firm purpose of amendment? Are we disposing ourselves and others for holiness when we shut our churches and cancel Masses and sacraments faster than the strip clubs and bars in the face of pandemics? Shouldn’t we all be striving to approach the sanctifying sacraments as if that Eucharist or Confession were the very last of our lives?
My dear brothers, we must not lose our passion, enthusiasm, and fervor for our holiness and the holiness of others for any reason. It is a precious gift from God. But we must not be focused on ourselves or our efforts at holiness. We are to simply dispose ourselves properly by being attentive to what God is doing to make us holy in and through the circumstances and events of our lives.
If we are not always disposed to receive the holiness of Christ, nothing on this earth will ever satisfy us as Jesus stated in this beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be satisfied.”(Mt 5:6) Our undying passion for holiness is the condition to receive the divine blessings that alone satisfy us.
Jesus Christ, “who alone is the holy one,” comes with His sanctifying grace in this Eucharist to make us holy. He only asks us to be disposed to receive His holiness like Mama Mary did and to help others be properly disposed too. If He finds us properly disposed and our passion for His holiness vibrant and alive, He will make us truly holy and then we will be truly satisfied.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!