“It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples” (John 15:8).
Holiness of life is not the privilege of a chosen few — it is the obligation, the call and the will of God for every Christian.
We cannot put up stumbling blocks of well-defined excuses to reason our way out of the reality that “our sanctification is the Will of God” (1 Thess. 4:3). We were created by God for the express purpose of radiating His Son, Jesus, in our own particular and unique way. We give Him glory by freely choosing to be what His Wisdom designed us to be.
A Christian is to be a “sign of contradiction” (Luke 2:34), a light on top of the mountain, a thorn in the side of the world. His entire life is a silent reproach to sinners, a beacon of hope to the oppressed, a ray of sunshine to the saddened, a source of encouragement to the destitute and a visible sign of the invisible reality of grace.
Saints are ordinary people, who love Jesus, try to be like Him, are faithful to the duties of their state in life, sacrifice themselves for their neighbor and keep their hearts and minds free of this world.
They live in the world, but rise above its mediocre standards. They enjoy living because life is a challenge, not an indulgence. They may not understand the reason for the cross, but faith gives them that special quality to find hope within it. They do understand they are to walk in their Master’s footsteps and everything that happens to them is turned to their good.
Saints are ordinary people, who do what they do for the love of Jesus, say what they must say without fear, love their neighbor even when they are cursed by him and live without regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow.
Nobody is Exempt
No one is exempt from the call to holiness. Men, women and children have climbed the ladder of life and reached high degrees of sanctity. These holy Christians have come from every conceivable state and vocation.
There was 9 year old Tarcisus, who defended the Eucharist with his life. Maria Goretti, age 11, defended her virginity as she was stabbed over and over by her assailant. Her sanctity shone brightly when she forgave her murderer and prayed for his conversion.
Mary of Egypt was a prostitute at 16. She joined a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land in an effort to ply her trade. When she reached the Church, an invisible force kept her from entering. Frightened by the experience, she gazed at a statue of Mary and realized the enormity of her sins. She determined to change her life and never again offend God. Forty years later, she died, a woman renowned for her holiness of life.
Matt Talbot was a hopeless alcoholic for most of his life. The disdain of his friends as he stood before them trembling for a drink, awakened his soul to its plight. He changed his life and directed his energies toward being like Jesus and looking toward eternal life.
The saints of the past were human beings with human frailties. St. Jerome had a violent temper and fought against that weakness his entire life. Dismas was a thief, who ended his life with one act of love and repentance and was privileged to have Jesus promise him Paradise. Both Charles de Foucauld and Francis of Assisi were playboys, who finally surrendered to the Hound of Heaven.
Every saint struggled and fought against his weaknesses all his life and as he acquired habits of virtue, he never lost sight of the dying embers of his weaknesses. He conquered by continual vigilance, always aware of what he was and what he could become. This uneasiness as to his own evil capabilities threw him into the arms of God. He depended on Him for everything and gave Him the credit for the least act of virtue in his life.
We Are Not Born Saints
Men are not born saints with special gifts and privileges. They fight against the world, the flesh and the devil and as they conquer, the Spirit of Jesus begins to shine through with more clarity. We sometimes confuse the particular mission of the saints with their holiness.
If compassion were to radiate through one, then healing would be given to that individual to manifest the power of God. But the charism is not part of holiness, it is merely an off-shoot — a gift to be given to others. It was God’s gift to the saint for the benefit of the people of God.
It is possible to possess charisma and not be holy. We see this clearly in the life of Judas. He spent three years with Jesus and possessed the power to heal, preach and deliver, but he himself did not grow in holiness. His weaknesses were aggravated by the power Jesus gave him for he saw it as a gift that bore his own person and pocketed little profit.
We Are Chosen
We cannot hide under the cozy excuse of not being chosen — or not possessing special qualities. If we are Christians we have been chosen. If we have been chosen, then those qualities peculiar to the degree of the holiness God calls us to will blossom out as we grow.
A little acorn has no resemblance to the mighty oak it will one day become, but nonetheless, all the material necessary in that giant tree is compressed into a small seed. Time, rain, sunshine, cold and storm are all necessary to bring out the hidden beauty, great height, and strong trunk that will give shade and delight to the heart of man.