24 May 2016
One of the hardest obstacles to really being a disciple of Christ is the fear of loss. It’s fairly common to think: “If I really try to follow Christ, then I’m going to have to give up all the things I enjoy and even love.” We saw that yesterday with the rich man who had “many possessions.” And we might even feel it in ourselves when we hear God say: “Be holy because I am holy.” The idea of holiness is colored, somewhat, by the idea of loss.
Some of the more beautiful images we have of holiness in our Catholic tradition are the saints. We think of the “big ones” like: Teresa of Avila, Benedict, Augustine, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Francis. And, of course, they’re the founders of some pretty robust religious orders: the Carmelites, the Benedictines, the Augustinians, the Missionaries of Charity, and the Franciscans. And their way of life—their path of holiness—is characterized by poverty.
But it’s been my experience (and I imagine many of us have experienced it) that those saints and their modern-day followers are some of the more joyful, peaceful, and vigorous champions of life and faith and wholeness. None of them, I’m sure, would say they’ve reached the holiness toward which they feel God calling them. Nonetheless, they’re joyful in trying to be holy because they know that holiness isn’t about loss—it’s about gain.
As we hear from Saint Peter, holiness (sanctity) is about “setting our hopes completely on the grace” of God. It means seeing the promise and the beauty of Christ, and saying, “That’s what I want!” It’s little different from falling in love and saying, “That’s the one I want to dedicate myself to.” To be married means saying yes to that one other person, while in the same breath, saying no to every other potential spouse in the world. But the loss of saying no to others is far outweighed by the joy of saying yes to the one.
And that’s the joy of holiness. It’s the joy of saying yes to Jesus, and having gained his love and eternal friendship. He is the object of our hope. And we don’t have to be a monk or a nun to dedicate ourselves to that hope. But we do need to say—in our hearts: I choose Christ. Holiness isn’t about what we lose; it’s about who we gain—and that Person loves us to death.