Journey to Sainthood
(All Parts: 1-5)
Part 1: Journey by Faith
This Sunday’s Gospel brings up many poignant questions: "Who is the faithful and prudent servant?"; "How do we prepare for the Master?"; "What does it mean to be entrusted?"; "With what are we entrusted?"; and, "Just what is the will of the Master?" Echoing the readings from this past week, we also may ask, "What is our 'treasure', and where have we stored it?"
In all of this we are guided to the understanding (with the aid of the accompanying readings) that faith is so much more than a casual word synonymous with belief, and it is through a radical faith in God that we can redirect our focus on a “heavenly citizenship,” counting all "treasures" and matters of this life as little in comparison with the glory that is to come.
Developing this disposition of faith is a tremendous exercise of prayer and self-discipline, but, rest assured, it is one of which we are all capable. And, it inaugurates the journey to sainthood, which is the journey to which ALL Christians are called by virtue of their Baptism.
After all, who are the saints but prudent and faithful servants of God, who have followed His Will, been entrusted with His Plan, and attained for themselves a heavenly citizenship in accord with where they have placed their “treasures?”
I used to think of sainthood as a great mantle for one to have, but not for everyone, or even most people. Sainthood seemed like the Christian version of celebrity and, of course, not everyone can be a famous figure, model, star, singer, etc.
I am sure that I am not the only one who has held this perception. But know that this perception is really a deception by the evil one who wishes that we be less than who God has made us to be.
When we reduce sainthood, like reducing faith, we diminish the value of virtue and grace within us and become even more disposed to sin. We may even go so far as to throw our hands up, saying, “Why bother? My good will never be good enough! I am not holy enough. I could never be as great, or compassionate, or charitable, or selfless as [insert saint name here] is.”
But sainthood is for everyone! And we must tenaciously pursue it by faith, faith that is a radical response to God’s call in our lives. We must also ask God for His Will for us, not comparing our deeds to those who have walked farther along toward this holy calling and His Will for them.
God made us to be saints and equips us with the tools (and sacraments) to attain sainthood. Step one on this journey is discovering the requisite faith that God has given us, and, like Abraham, sojourning out into the unknown, trusting in the guidance of God and His Divine Providence.
HERE is a playlist of the music that we will be using at the masses for August 6-7.
Part 2: Journey by Conviction
Our Parish Vision Statement:
A community of disciples convicted, unified, and empowered by Christ’s love who minister to each other and the lost.
Conviction is a powerful word that is most often associated with the legal system, but on the Journey to Sainthood, it is a word that connotes the strength of our faith. To be convicted or convinced is to be so sure of our faith that we are ready to make significant sacrifices.
The martyrs are exemplary figures here as they bore so much conviction that they not only willingly but joyfully and enthusiastically went to their deaths in order to glorify God.
Of course, not many of us are going to be called to such an extreme, but the question remains as to how to quell our sense of doubt and uncertainty and cultivate a strong conviction in our faith.
This Sunday’s readings give us some ideas, which both encourage and challenge us. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah is wrongfully imprisoned and risks death if not rescued. As a prophet, he proclaims God’s Word and is willing to face any consequence for the sake of the Truth.
In the second reading, the author reminds the Hebrews that the path to true conviction lies in succeeding in the struggle against sin and notes that his readership has not even gotten “to the point of shedding blood” (Heb. 12:4) in resisting it. Their conviction is untested and their role model must necessarily be Christ who underwent the ultimate test of conviction.
In the Gospel, Christ gives us a jarring message about the division that will be created in families for the sake of the Kingdom. The Kingdom comes first and a hard sacrifice to make is drawing the lines in families between those who are convicted and those who are not.
If faith is the initial response to God’s invitation and outpouring of love, conviction is the next step and requires that we put into action and deed what we have professed in our thoughts and words, however much of a sacrifice that may be.
We must remember that our conviction is fueled by our faith, which itself requires much prayer and self-discipline. These repel sin, which must be diminished in order for our faith to give way to conviction rather than complacency.
If we have faith that God is who He is, then we have nothing to fear in taking that leap, becoming fully convicted of our faith and ready to serve the Lord with undivided hearts.
HERE is a playlist of the music that we will be using at the masses for August 13-14.
Part 3: Journey by Endurance
If you know me you know that I hate running! Of all the forms of exercise, this is the least appealing to me. One of the reasons for this is because I cannot go very far or very quickly at my level of fitness…I lack the endurance necessary to have a “good run.”
Even on days when I actually feel like exercising, when I am energized and wish go for a jog in my neighborhood or at the park, I am easily discouraged when I find myself winded early on.
Physical fitness is hard work and it takes time to see results: to go from running a mile to several or lifting this amount of weights or doing that amount of squats. Our spiritual fitness takes no less effort to hone and often a great deal more time.
It also takes extra effort to notice any changes, yet without it all of the faith and conviction we have stored up will lack the endurance to be effective.
We may decide we want to try this new prayer routine or make a promise to be more adamant about attending mass, but then easily give up as soon as we drop the ball once or after a short while of not “seeing” any changes in our lives.
The Journey to Sainthood by Endurance, however tells us to stick it out. It is to take the trials that test the conviction we have in our faith and overcome them. To begin looking at the pain that may come along the way as a good and find joy in it in the same way sore muscles after workout indicate that we will become stronger.
In the second reading, we are encouraged to “endure … trials as discipline” (Heb 12:7). In looking to the saints for extra support, we recall that they realized that in each moment of trial, persecution, and struggle, such endurance “brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it” (Heb 12:11).
In this way we may find ourselves able to to pass through the “narrow gate” (Lk 13:24) and avoid the distractions and disappointments that take us off track of this journey. We are warned in the gospel not to be caught off-guard like this, lest Christ say to us, “I do not know where you are from” (Lk 13:27).
And, like a good work-out buddy, being part of a Faith community provides the needed support to grow in endurance and stay on track in the Journey to Sainthood.
Part 4: Journey by Humility
Fr. Tom was my pastor growing up. He would always give a bilingual homily at our Holy Thursday Evening Mass (The Mass of the Lord's Supper). This was one of the few times a year that the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities gathered together.
I don't remember every homily I had the privilege of hearing, much less every Holy Thursday homily, but one year his words were very compelling and they have stuck with me.
Fr. Tom, in addition to being pastor in a parish that ran a regional school, had been studying to get a degree in nursing as an RN. This particular Holy Thursday he shared with us some of that experience, an experience many would think as unnecessary and a good deal of extra work.
At the Mass of the Lord's Supper, the celebrant of the mass washes the feet of 12 people in a reenactment of Jesus washing the feet of the Twelve. It is a stunning act of humility that Jesus, who is the first among all, makes himself the least.
Fr. Tom, in speaking of the familiar imagery and making that point, added his experience of giving bed baths to patients as part of his training. He would have to lift patients, gently wash them with sponges, and basically take care of them in their most vulnerable of states.
Rather than make this a humiliating experience for the patients, he turned the negative association of that term around and humbled himself before them, laboring in love and compassion to show them the charity that comes from knowing Christ.
Even as he spoke that evening it was not in boast, but rather it conveyed to us in a real way the true meaning of humility. A meaning that involves a radical placement of the other before you. It leans on the virtue of charity.
As we move along in the Journey to Sainthood, we must remember that the undercurrent to all our efforts of growing in Faith, Conviction, Endurance, and, now, Humility, involves a consistent growth in Charity (love). True charity is the mark of saints like soon-to-be-canonized Mother Teresa and Servant of God, Dorothy Day. Humility is the natural expression of that charity.
In this week's readings, we are reminded of the importance of humility, but the Gospel also joins it to charity, asking that we not exercise humility just among our own and in our comfort zones, but include the "poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind...because of their inability to repay" (Lk 14:13-14). That is where humility and charity meet, and this is where you will find the greatest holy men and women of our faith.
HERE is a playlist of the music that we will be using at the masses for August 27-28.
Part 5: Journey by Intention
Our 5 -week Journey to Sainthood culminates with a focus on the intentionality behind sainthood. There are, of course, many other virtues and dispositions that need to be cultivated in order to achieve that halo, but these are good places to begin.
Remember, sainthood is for everyone, but it requires that we actively intend it and take the corresponding intentional action that is the Will of God for us.
We have to mean it and make good on it.
As this Sunday's readings show us, it requires self-discipline, self-awareness, oodles of prayer, must be voluntary, and needs a healthy sense of "detachment" in order that we may make the difficult, often life-altering decisions.
Take a look at the blog post "No Low-Cost Christianity" by Br. Silas S. Henderson, SDS to see just how intentional our saints and other faithful men and women have been.
This week and in those to come, pray to them for their intercession in your own life's discernment. All of them were normal and ordinary, but they were able to do the extraordinary for God because of their intention to do His Will no matter what.
HERE is a playlist of the music that we will be using at the masses this weekend.