St. Therese, the Little Flower, once said that a person “cannot be half a saint. We must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” Only the most obtuse will deny that most people in this world would be very content to be called ‘half a saint’ and, most likely, would cheerfully refer to themselves that way.
Recently I was comparing notes with a friend about the various diminutions we are experiencing as we get older. I reminded her that Blessed John Paul II called these the “natural chastisements of old age.”
She looked startled and asked me sincerely, “What do I have to be chastised for?”
I said that we all have to be “chastised” of something before we go to heaven. If not, then heaven would be just like earth and who wants that?
Truth is, in order to be a “whole saint”, every person must follow the narrow path that includes chastisements of some kind. My hunch is that the path is narrow because there are so few, as Jesus said, who want to walk on it.
The common response to Mother Teresa’s statement that pain means “Jesus is kissing you” is “Well, tell Him to stop kissing me!” This is a completely normal response. Who voluntarily opens themselves up to pain?
Only those who love. When we fall in love, we blithely open ourselves to all sorts of pain that will eventually result from that love.
As that love matures, we begin to understand that pain and love are two sides of the same coin; they always go together no matter how idyllic the beloved.
To be a “whole saint” means that we learn to open ourselves to receive all the love and, therefore, all the pain, that God has to give us in this life.
In this Sunday’s reading from Luke 3, Jesus voluntarily and publicly confirms the love he has for us by allowing his cousin, John, to baptize him. Luke tells that after Jesus was baptized and while he was praying, the heavens opened, a dove descended and a voice was heard saying, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Before embarking on His public ministry, Jesus received the love of His Father in prayer.
So, in this Year of Faith, how are we to respond? When those who believe in and follow the teaching of the Catholic Church are under assault from governments, in workplaces and in their own families, how do we become “whole saints?”
First, by consciously receiving God’s love, as Jesus did at the Jordan River.
Without Him, we can do nothing. Period. So whatever it takes to fill ourselves with an awareness of His love and daily presence in our lives, needs to be done. Everyday. Without fail.
Second, begin each day with the end in mind.
Since the end is being a “whole saint”, when we remember that fact, we can more easily endure and triumph over the daily chastisements that we inevitably encounter. On the other hand, if we assume that being “half a saint” is good enough to get by with, we will end up being “no saint at all.”
Third, live in joy.
Not happiness, joy. There is a big difference. Joy is the best Evangelization Tool. Surrounded as we are by the culture of death, Joy speaks of our love life with Jesus more profoundly than anything that culture has to offer.
Copyright © 2013, Glenna Bradshaw
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