Saints in the Making
We are all called to be saints – to be holy. As Saint Paul said to the Church in Thessalonica, “This is the will of God – your holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Jesus himself issued the call in his Sermon on the Mount. He was addressing the crowd when he said, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Jesus was not laying an impossible burden on the crowd, but was instead calling them to share God’s life, which is purity, holiness and love.
Jesus’ words were an echo of God’s great calling to Israel given through Moses: “Make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). The difference is that now with Christ coming to dwell with us, through his saving grace, he has given his disciples the power to become God’s children (John 1:12), to share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Human beings cannot be perfect on their own; we cannot be holy on our own, but with God’s help we can because God is perfect and is holy by nature.
God calls us to be saints not to be demanding, but because he loves us and wants what is good for us. He wants the best for his children. The universal call to sainthood, to holiness, is really a call to happiness – authentic happiness.
Our culture presents many false definitions of happiness and it is easy for us to buy into them. Many people say that happiness is the same thing as pleasure. Experience however tells us it is not. We only have to look into the lives of wayward celebrities who can afford to indulge every stray desire and we will too often see profound unhappiness and loneliness. Yet if we speak to seniors whose families had to scrape by during the Depression they will tell you how they were happy growing up. They had one another and they had love, and this love is from God.
God wants us to be truly happy. This means a mind that is not preoccupied with oneself, but rather with care for others. It means inner peace, a clear conscience, even in the midst of personal, professional or social difficulties. It means living with the knowledge that we are loved.
God calls us to this happiness along the way of our particular vocations. The Lord called me to his priesthood and perhaps he also calls you to the priesthood or maybe the consecrated religious life. God calls many of you to marriage – throughout most of history, he has called most Christians to holiness by this way of marriage and family life. We saw a beautiful example of this last month with the canonization of Saint Louis Martin and Saint Zélie Guérin Martin, husband and wife. While their joint canonization might be special, the holiness they manifested in their married life is meant to be commonplace and there are many, many more saints in heaven that were married on earth, but are not officially canonized.
Some of you have already realized your particular vocation in your wedding, the taking of vows or ordination. Some of you are still on your way, seeking a spouse or in formation, and others are still discerning, listening for what God wants for you. In each of these cases, it is a continuing journey and it is also part of the universal path of holiness.
What we all have in common is that we want to know true happiness, peace and fulfillment – we want to go to heaven. And for that, we must be saints. For us imperfect human beings still walking the path and still works in progress, that means growing in holiness and becoming saints. It means turning ourselves around so that we are headed in the right direction, toward the way of God and genuine happiness.
To be a saint – to be with God and in God, eternally in the communion of his love – this is his plan for you and for me and for everyone we meet. This is glorious good news; it is the joy of the Gospel.
This blog post includes excerpts from my book, “The Marriage God Wants for You” (2015).