All of us are called to live our Christian life to perfection – that is, to become saints. The Lord Himself tells us this in the Gospel of St Matthew, when He says – “Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (cf. Mt.5).
In this passage, the Lord is giving the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and telling the disciples what it means and what it takes to be Christian. He refers to the Ten Commandments and then goes beyond these, noting that it is the spirit of the Law which matters, and this extends beyond the word of the Law as contained in this summary. He speaks not only of doing good works, bet tells those who are listening how these works are to be done, in what spirit they should be undertaken. He also teaches the disciples how to pray, giving them – and all of us – the Lord’s Prayer. The chapter ends by noting that “His teaching made a great impression on the people, because He taught them with authority” (Mt.7:28-29).
Throughout the ages, the Church has called all of us to this way of perfection, this path of sanctity. In our own times, this call has perhaps been most explicit in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, particularly ‘Lumen Gentium’, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The fifth chapter of this great document reminds us that –
“The forms and tasks of life are many but holiness is one — that sanctity which is cultivated by all who act under God’s Spirit and… follow Christ.. All the faithful of Christ, of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity .. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image, seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbour”.
And this is perhaps the secret of true sanctity – that we reach the point where we seek nothing other than the will of God. Then, we can say with St Paul – “it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me” (cf. Gal.2:20). In living in this way, Saul had become the great apostle, Paul – and so his transformation was both figurative and literal.
This is the will of God for each and every one of us – that we be transformed and live only for Christ, Who lives in us.
The same message is repeated time and time again by the Saints of the Church – those good people who have walked the path of holiness before us, and who the Church holds up to us as exemplars of the Christian life.
Each Saint has a different life story, a different charism, a different path, and we will each find ourselves drawn to different particular Saints – but every one of them reached precisely the same destination.
We are often reminded of this by the Popes, the Shepherds of the Church. Pope Emeritus Benedict called our attention to this during a General Audience given in 2011 when he said – “The saints expressed in various ways the powerful and transforming presence of the Risen One. They let Jesus so totally overwhelm their life..”.
A recent example of the reality of these words is Saint Faustina. In her Diary, she records these words of the Merciful Lord –
“This firm resolution to become a Saint is extremely pleasing to Me. I bless your efforts and will give you opportunities to sanctify yourself. Be watchful that you lose no opportunity that My providence offers you for sanctification. If you do not succeed in taking advantage of an opportunity, do not lose your peace, but humble yourself profoundly before Me and, with great trust, immerse yourself completely in My mercy. In this way, you gain more than you have lost, because more favour is granted to a humble soul than the soul itself asks for.” (Diary, para.1361)
A little further on, Saint Faustina writes these words of her own –
“Now, I can be wholly useful to the Church by my personal sanctity, which throbs with life in the whole Church, for we all make up one organism in Jesus. That is why I will endeavour to make the soil of my heart bear good fruit.” (Diary, para.1364)
And so the benefits of sanctity are not only for us at the personal level, but for the entire Church at the communal level; our personal sanctity sanctifies the entire Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, by virtue of the Communion of Saints.
We may never find ourselves being canonised, but we will certainly be asked one day what use we have made of the graces lavished upon us by so merciful a Lord.
Perhaps today we might take a moment to look carefully into the Merciful Heart of Jesus and to ask Him what He desires of us and for us, and to ask Him to grant us the graces we need that His will might be fulfilled in us, that we might be holy ‘as our Father in Heaven is holy’.