“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
- Lk 21:19
As we enter the last two weeks of the Church year and begin Advent on November 28th
our readings speak of the end of time and the coming of Christ. In today’s Gospel (Lk 21:5-19) Jesus
speaks of trials that will come at the end of the world as we know it, including war, famine,
earthquakes, and plagues. There will also be signs and wonders that “will come from the sky.”
This would be enough to distract just about anyone from the daily duty that we have as Christians,
that is, to keep our eyes fixed on Christ in all that we do. But as it says in the ritual for
Anointing of the Sick, “Our weakness lays claim to Your strength.”
We must be deeply grounded as Christians to endure the challenges of our day. I believe it was Fulton
Sheen who said that in the last part of the 20th century Catholics would either become saints or fall away. Though
that time has passed, it seems to be more relevant each day and touches on our call to become saints. How do we do
that? Isn’t that for heroic people? Don’t I need to be in a convent to achieve that? No, sainthood is meant in a special
way for the kitchen table, the workplace, and the narthex. While we are transformed in the holy actions of the
Church, real sanctity is worked out in our daily lives fulfilling our daily duties in a simple and loving way.
Someone remarked, “But I don’t want to be a saint!” Do you want to love? Do you want to love fully, increasing
your joy and happiness to the greatest extent possible? If ‘yes’, then you want to be a saint. Maybe what
needs to change is our conception of what ‘saint’ means. Many saints live and die without a statue being erected in
their honor; the simple people in our constellation of friends who humbly walk by faith. What do they do that’s different?
Let’s look at some of these characteristics, which make for sainthood that anyone of us can attain, beginning
with a basic attitude.
Thomas Aquinas was asked how one could become a saint. He said, “Will it.” Simple, an act that we are capable
of; using our will to cooperate with the action of the Holy Spirit. The will, according to St. John of the Cross, is
the seat (home) of the supernatural virtue of love. More simply said, love is in the will. This contradicts the modern
association of love being in the emotions or in the libido. Remember ‘Love Story’s sentimental journey? While genuine
love can certainly stir the emotions, true love always includes an act of the will whereby we voluntarily assent,
say ‘yes’ to, the movement of the Holy Spirit within us. We have been sealed and filled with this Spirit of love.
The willingness, the desire, to become a saint, is equivalent to the willingness to love. If we want to become
a saint, all we have to do is love. It is likewise the one thing we have control of. Many things can happen around us
that are evil, yet we can always, if we are willing, respond in a loving way. This of course takes a strong union with
that love which resides in our hearts and minds. As Jesus said in today’s Gospel, there will be challenges that shake
our foundations and can distract us from the gift of love.
As I begin my first term as Pastor (six years), it is a good time to continue developing a list of ‘parish precepts’,
principles and duties to live by, here at St. Stephens. These will help us ‘live in love’. They include, but aren’t
exhausted by, prayer, study, fellowship, and service. I wrote earlier about the Eucharist, the ‘Sacrament of Charity’.
It remains as the primary font of love at the heart of our Church. In many parts of the world the water well or fountain
is at the heart of a village or building. The well is a source of life, essential for a healthy life. One of the first
things we do in developing property is to check on the availability of water. So, as Catholics, we have to check on
the availability of Mass and Holy Communion, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation. An attitude of
love is possible with the Eucharist, Infinite Love consecrated and received. May we continue to be transformed by
the loving will of God who makes Himself Incarnate through the Eucharist.
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