Do you ever wish sometimes that it could just be easier? It could be simpler? It could be less complicated? It could be less of a hassle? It could be less demanding? It could take less time?
And, the “it?” Well, the “it,” I suspect, changes for all of us depending on circumstances from day to day or even from moment to moment.
The “it” might be raising the kids. “It” might be having a difficult conversation with your spouse. “It” might be the neighbor next door, or the coworker in the next cubicle, or the classmate sitting next to you.
What might the “it” be for you? Let’s take a moment in silence right now, and pray about that. (Pause)
The “it” for me this past week has been being a loving and faithful pastor as I celebrated three funerals and accompanied families and parishioners through grief, sorrow and the loss of a wife and mother, a faithful mother of six children – none of whom are presently practicing their Catholic faith, and lastly a husband and father whose youngest daughter is only 12 years old.
The “it” is also included accompanying Fr. Lou as he walked daily with the Dodd family who lost their youngest son, Killian who was only a year and a half old and whose funeral will be this coming Friday.
The “it” for me goes even much deeper. It has been a lifelong desire, yet most of the time experienced as a longing beyond my reach.
My core “it” has been and is Jesus speaking to me once again with longing these words: “Be holy Jim, for I the Lord, your God, am holy. Be perfect Jim, just as your heavenly father is perfect.”
Being a disciple, that is, a faithful follower of Jesus Christ has never been easy. Never. And I suspect that will not change.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. Turn your cheek, and offer not only the tunic but the cloak as well. Go the extra mile. Do not turn your back on anyone.
‘Oh and by the way love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and dislike you and even hate you. So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’”
Easy, right? No, being a disciple, a faithful follower of Jesus Christ has never been.
Even St. Paul tells the Corinthians, “Let no one deceive oneself. If anyone among you considers himself or herself wise in this age, let them become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
That’s a great way to fit in, isn’t it? Name the foolishness, the superficiality, the emptiness and then choose to live differently and of course everyone will follow your example!
Well, not really. I only wish…
So I went to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to go a bit deeper. This is what it has to say about Christian holiness.
2013 “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”65 All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”66
2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ…God calls us all to this intimate union with him…
2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle…that gradually leads to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.
Then I went to the “YOUCAT.” This is a special rendering of the catechism of the Catholic Church for young people. In 342 the question is posed: “Are we all supposed to become saints?”
This is what they answer: “Yes. The purpose of our life is to be United with God in love and to correspond entirely to God’s wishes. We should allow God, as Mother Teresa says, ‘to live his life in us.’ This is what it means to be holy: a saint.”
It continues: “Every person asks themselves this question: who am I and why am I here, how do I find myself? Faith answers: only in the holiness does one become that for which God created them. Only in holiness does one find a real harmony between oneself and their creator. Holiness, however, is not some sort of self-made perfection; rather, it is union with the incarnate love that is Christ Jesus. Anyone who gains new life in this way finds oneself and becomes holy.”
I know this is a lot to take in on a Sunday morning, so my homily will be posted on the website and on our parish app so that you can pray with these selections.
I think it comes down to this: if we allow God’s love to lead us, this love made fully manifest in Jesus Christ, in his teaching, his life, death and resurrection and now present by the power the Holy Spirit in the Church, we not only will experience an inner peace, joy and blessing beyond all telling, but we will also be different than the world around us.
And this will not be easy. It never has been. Yet, as the martyrs, saints and so many holy women and men throughout the ages have shown us, it is totally and absolutely worthwhile.