I think that we have a pretty unhealthy view of Heaven. I’d venture to guess that most Catholics, myself included, take the St. Augustine view… “Lord make me holy, but not yet.” How different would our lives be, how different would our marriages be, if we instead took the approach, “Lord, make me holy now."
Alison and I have found a rich little Catholic community here in Northern Virginia. It’s really pretty incredible. Our parish is vibrant and the homilies are choice. One of the running themes over the past several weeks, thanks mainly to this year’s Gospel cycle, is the universal call to holiness. In combination with the recent canonizations and persecutions, the message is loud and clear, “You don’t have to wait until you’re old to be a saint!"
We like to think of sainthood as something lofty, as we should. Yet, we take it a step further and think it’s reserved for a select few. It’s true that out of all of human history, a very small percentage of people are canonized. At the same time, the Church’s teachings are clear: there are untold numbers of people who are in Heaven (saints) that the Church hasn’t canonized. The purpose of canonization is not to separate the wheat from the chaff, it’s to hold up examples to the Church here on earth. The purpose of canonization is to celebrate our participation in Salvation History. Canonized saints are just a few examples of regular people who lived their lives right.
We all have difficulties and struggles in the spiritual life. Those challenges tend to spill over into other areas of our lives. This is normal, as we are integrated people. You can’t separate the spirituality from the intellect from the sexuality of a human person. So when we’re living our lives in a way that will lead us to sainthood, other aspects of our lives get better. We have better days, richer relationships, and more peace and joy. When we stray, everything gets a bit worse.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
The decision to be a saint is made today.
Sainthood is a culmination of a life of service and sacrifice. Our modern saints are an excellent example of this. Saint John Paul II’s entire life embodied these two principles. He subverted the Nazis, destroyed Communism, taught us about the beauty of human sexuality and showed us a witness of love through terminal illness. He showed us that no life is unimportant, no life is expendable, no one is replaceable.
He didn’t wake up one morning and have the fortitude and tenacity to challenge power. His daily decision to follow Christ from a young age prepared him for the mission he was called to live.
It’s never too late. It’s never too late to start following Christ. Today’s the day you start. Today’s the day you start living the life you were supposed to live. Today’s the day you start your journey towards sainthood.
True joy comes from living in the Law. It’s like following the owners manual for your car. The closer you follow the manual, the better your ride drives.
Man up. Start today. Start small. Start at home. And let your children “catch you.”