Thirst and Perfection
God thirsts for you. He desires you and He loves you. This thirst is universal and extends to every beloved created person. The Church shows forth this love of God for us and beckons us to be like Him. Regardless of our own state in life, our vocation, or circumstances, we are called to the perfect of charity: holiness.
This perfection that we are called to is so important for us and for our world. One of my favorite quotes is from St. Catherine of Sienna: “If you are who you were meant to be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” Though it seems to be a lofty goal, we are all called to perfect holiness. Of course, what sets us ablaze and what makes holiness possible is God’s life in us. Only by His grace can we hope to be truly good and holy.
God created us out of sheer goodness, freely calling us to share in His blessed life. He draws near to us. He seeks us, calls us to know and love Him, and unifies all those scattered by sin. He sent his Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. And they have sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins and to guide us into all truth.
In our imitation of Christ, we grow in holiness. We love others and show mercy, just as God loves us and shows us mercy. This requires cooperation. As St. Therese of Lisieux once said, “You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” If we fail, we get back up, trust in Christ, and keep pushing forward. The struggle helps make us perfect.
Called to Holiness
Holiness is the perfection of the love of God within us. Holiness is only possible by God’s love and grace. Through authentic imitation of Jesus Christ and complete submission to God’s will, we can hope to attain perfection in and through Him. Grace is what begins, sustains, and perfects the growth in holiness. Grace is the unmerited, unearned assistance of God.
According to the will of God and His grace, we are called to Baptism. In the baptism of faith, we become children of God. Through Baptism, we are made holy. “Holy” literally means “set apart.” In other words, we are set apart from the world by God to be like Him. This being set right with God, being put in right relationship with Him, is justification. In Baptism, we are washed clean of all sin and justified before God; we are made holy.
Then, we fall from time to time to sin. We drive ourselves further from God, and, yet, through the Church in so many ways, God brings us back to Him. We are sanctified by Him. This sanctification goes hand in hand with justification.
Called to be Saints
It has been said that “the history of the Church is the history of holiness.” No matter our state in life: priests, religious, laity – we are all called to be holy witnesses to Christ in all circumstances. In the Church, we hold up certain men and women throughout the ages as saints. Saint comes from a Latin word ‘sanctus’ which means ‘holy.’ When we strive to become holy, we are striving to become saints.
The saints are so incredible! And they are all so different. They are living testaments to the reality that the more we turn our lives over to God, the more freedom to be who we were created to be. The saints are witnesses to Christ, in the best and worst of times.
One Body in Christ
We are called to be holy, to be saints, but we are also actively called daily to build up the Body of Christ. We belong to the One Body of Christ in a mystical way through Baptism. We become members of Him. Just as a body has different organs that serve different purposes, each of us has a different and unique role to play. Each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God and we are unrepeatable. Each of us is called to change the world for the better with little acts of love each day. These acts of love, simply put, are little ‘yes’s to God!
The whole Church, the Body of Christ, was founded by Jesus to spread His kingdom through the world to the glory of God. This is directed immediately towards relationship. Our participation in the Body of Christ, through Baptism, makes us sharers of His very Body. Through Baptism, we are given the gift of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us. And if we cooperate with His grace we direct our lives to our Heavenly Father.
We have a Father in Heaven! Not a slave master! This is a beautiful reality that changes everything! When we understand that we have a Father in Heaven, we understand our deepest identity: we are children of God, sons and daughters! Baptism incorporates us into Jesus’ Mystical Body. This is a great mystery, but it is an unseen reality that the waters of Baptism show us.
Diversity in the Mission
There is a beautiful diversity to how we are to live out the mission. However, the mission itself is united in Christ. It is His mission that we serve! On the Apostles, Christ conferred the duty to teach, sanctify, and govern, but we are also given an exercise of the apostolate. This word “apostolate” comes from a Greek word meaning that we are being sent forth.
We are sent forth to serve God and neighbor in all things. Therefore, there is a communal dimension to our holiness, rooted in our communion with Christ. We cannot only strive to grow in holiness, we must also exemplify holiness and encourage others to do the same by modeling our lives and actions on Christ, and, importantly, we must align our wills to the will of God. We need one another, in community, to grow closer to perfection.