“Know this, My daughter; if you strive for perfection you will sanctify many souls; and if you do not strive for sanctity, by the same token, many souls will remain imperfect. Know that their perfection will depend on your perfection, and the greater part of the responsibility for these souls will fall on you.” (Diary of St Faustina, para.1165)
Sometimes, we can have the idea that reaching Heaven is something we do alone. The reality is, I suspect, a little different; I think if we arrive there alone, we will be asked a simple question – ‘Where is everyone else? Who have you brought with you?’
Striving for sanctity is certainly something we do for our own perfection; but as the quotation above from the Diary of St Faustina makes clear, that is not the whole story. Our Faith is not lived in splendid isolation – it is something we live in community; it has a very broad aspect. It encompasses not only us, but all those around us. If it does not have some effect on those around us, then that is perhaps something we need to wonder about. Why not?
Something of this is echoed in the words of Pope Pius XII, writing in his Encyclical, ‘Mystici Corporis Christi’, in the summer of 1943 –
“As He hung upon the Cross, Christ Jesus not only appeased the justice of the Eternal Father which had been violated, but He also won for us, His brethren, an ineffable flow of graces. It was possible for Him of Himself to impart these graces to mankind directly; but He willed to do so only through a visible Church made up of men, so that through her all might cooperate with Him in dispensing the graces of Redemption. As the Word of God willed to make use of our nature, when in excruciating agony He would redeem mankind, so in the same way throughout the centuries He makes use of the Church that the work begun might endure.”
In other words, it is part of the Divine Plan that every one of us co-operates in some way with the Redemption won by Christ upon the Cross of Golgotha; through the Church, the ordinary dispenser of the Treasury of Divine Grace, certainly – but also through each of us, all of whom have a part to play. This mystery continues throughout the history of the Church and of the World, continuing down through the centuries and into our own time.
And this begs a question of each of us – what is the will of God for me personally? Which souls – without even knowing it – depend on me as a conduit of grace for their sanctification, as much as for my own? My family? Friends? Neighbours? Colleagues? Some stranger whose name I do not know?
This is the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, in action; many parts make up the whole, and the sanctification of the parts increases the sanctification of all.
Tonight, in prayer, may each of us ask the Lord to make us holy, to sanctify us – that in turn, we may play a part in the sanctification of others.