Dare to be holy!
People who follow Jesus Christ are called to holiness. Holiness is basically the true union with God in mind and heart. In Mt. 5:48, "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
There are signs of growing holiness, but they must never be exterior. "Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones." (1 Thes 3:12-13) So when someone shows great aptitude for loving other people, indeed loving Jesus Christ, he is growing in holiness. And it is even better when he does so with great humility. Pope John Paul II reminded us frequently that he was a servant - that is humility coming from the Bishop of Rome.
Some people say they will never be holy. Well, think about that, because when you get to Heaven, you are holy! If you weren't holy, you would go to Purgatory... or worse, so it is good to strive toward holiness. There is another aspect to holiness ... the road toward Heaven is filled with pain. Remember when you went to grammar school, perhaps with sisters or religious brothers, and they taught you about that road filled with big boulders and bushes of thorns, those images seem to be a prerequisite to getting entry into Heaven. Our Lord suffered and died so that we may go there too.
To give you a tiny example of that thorny road - after conquering one of many temptations, at least for that one day, when we think we overcame the near occasion of sin, Satan doesn't leave us alone. He keeps bugging us to steer toward the sin because, says he, "it feels so good." Whenever I overcome a temptation, I know deep down I need to continue overcoming that temptation, and that can be so very, very hard.... and for the most part painful. Giving up the human will to follow Jesus costs effort and is painful. It is said that life is a bed of Roses (with thorns).
Daily conversion, is another sign of holiness, but since those signs aren't meant to be external signs, others will never know about it. Don't worry about it... God will know! And when you are weak and succumb to sin, God knows that too! I think that when we stand before Jesus, at the end of times, it will not be necessary for Him to tell us what we did wrong. In His presence, we will know what we did wrong and we will be ashamed and humbled. Don't let it be too late. Start working on holiness now.
Growth in holiness is a gift of God. All we really need to do is recognize His gift, accept it, and go with it (use it). There are ways to get closer to God through prayer, very frequent prayer, not just one minute a day. Prayer is when we talk to God. He wants to talk to us, and we need to talk to Him to share in the riches of his Grace, his gift to us. It is very important to be polite to God, and by that I mean, we don't tell God what we want Him to do for us - we ask, most of the time, we beg! We recognize the greatness, the omnipotence and power of God, and then in our smallness we ask for His help. Always be humble, be forgiving, but it is OK to be confident.
When setting out to pray, quiet yourself within. Shut off the T.V., radio, lay down the novel you are reading, find a quiet place to sit, tell your husband or children you do not wish to be disturbed for a while if that possibility seems imminent, relax and begin to talk intimately with Jesus. Remember when you were young, how much faith you had in people around you? Talk to Jesus like that, as a child. Talk without the "agenda". You know what I mean by an "agenda" - it is when you ask God to help you provided ... on some condition, usually a very selfish condition. That's not praying, that's not asking for His grace!
Now, and this is very important, pause periodically in talking/praying to
Him, to give Him time to talk to you. How does He do that so you can understand Him? Sometimes you are suddenly driven to open a book, and you read something there that sort of helps you with what
you are praying about. Or, you get a sudden thought that seems to come out of no where. Maybe this is a trivial example because I've used it before in my writings, but one day I saw a Hawk sitting on
a fence adjoining our property. And I came upon this view suddently as I was turning the corner in the car... I used to study hawks and tag them with numbered bands many years ago, and surely God
knows that I love those animals. As the hawk came into view, a message formed within me, and I clearly heard Him say ... "and I did it just for you!" This really happened, sometime last fall. Praise
God! I think of Jesus periodically during the day even when I am driving the car, [yes, we can do two things at the same time, if we must], usually a small prayer of praise for something nice I
happen to see.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS