In the last year, my life has changed pretty significantly. I’ve had to deal with a physical issue that has caused my professional career of 29 years to come to a screeching halt. I enjoyed my career; however, like most people, was looking forward to the day I didn’t have to wake by an alarm and could do what I wanted. I have to tell you, it’s a lot different when you are planning on retiring from your profession versus having to quit.
I’ve come to realize that God wanted me to take time out for Him, and He probably wasn’t going to get the time He deserved from me, without having to physically stop me in my tracks, because I’m one of those people who have always had something going on. I love to hike, bike, explore, try something new, learn and in general, be active. I had always thought I would have time for “being more Holy” later on, when I couldn’t do all those active things I was doing. Apparently, God decided that time was sooner than later.
Mentally, I was upset that my body failed me. I was always proud of the fact that I could quickly pass younger people on a hike or really get my speed up on a bike ride at my ripe old 50-something age. I didn’t want to face the fact that 29 years of a very physical job did me in and not only would I have to stop working, I could no longer do some of the active outdoorsy things I loved. I could sense myself starting to get a little depressed, down or frustrated, especially during my recovery period and I can fully understand how some people could spiral downward if they didn’t have a relationship with God. Now, I’m not saying I had the best relationship; however, a couple of years earlier, I had made the commitment to attend Adoration every week and I believe that was the catalyst that started me on my journey into learning more about my faith and wanting to become as Holy as I could be with my time here on earth.
When thinking about what it takes to become Holy, one might think they are to pray constantly, attend daily Mass, give to the poor, feed the hungry and on and on. I know that is pretty much what I thought becoming Holy was all about. When you look at it like that, the majority of people who are working or attending school, wouldn’t have time for everything “required” to becoming Holy, and I knew that physically, I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything except prayer for a while. The Catholic Church says that we are all called to be Holy and this Universal Call to Holiness is based upon Matthew 5:48 – “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” From the very first pages of the Bible, we see the call to holiness expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless”.
When God stopped me in my tracks and I had the time to sit and reflect, I discovered that the Council of Vatican II stated, “Holiness is first of all a gift of grace, the gift of love by which we love God above all things and our neighbor for God’s sake. But in order for love to grow, we must cooperate with this grace, completing what God has begun in us.” We first receive grace through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. Allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us depending on our situation or obligations will allow us to grow in Christ’s love for one another.
Using our specific strengths or talents, each one of us can become more like Christ; thus, becoming more Holy. We need to remember to accept our specific gifts with love, know they are from Christ and use them for God’s will, out of love for Him. This is what so many people (including myself) need to understand. Many of us may not be able to physically do for others; however, we may actually be doing more for someone’s soul by praying for them, seeking reparation for souls who are in purgatory, or offering your sufferings for others. I’ve read about many a saint who, while confined to their sickbed, asked not for a cure to their ailment(s) because they were doing more good for souls by offering up their sufferings for them. We have to remember that it is out of charity and love for others we do these things.
Some people, many Protestants and even some Catholics, mistakenly think we Catholics are all about doing good deeds. They believe we are tallying up a list of our good deeds to present at the gates of Heaven, as our ticket to get in. The Catholic Church teaches that our moral life, the righteous life that God desires from us and is one we need to live to become Holy, is precisely fulfilled in our interior disposition toward God and neighbor. If I love God and love neighbor, my heart toward God has changed from opposition and animosity, to one of faith, love, trust and filial dependence on God. Through this gift of love for others and to live a virtuous life as Christ did, we are called to do good deeds. This is just an extension of the gifts we are given through faith in Christ. We can recall St. James 2:17 saying, “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” and in James 2:22, “You see that faith was active along with his works and faith was completed by the works.” We must have both to fulfill God’s will for our lives.
Deepening our Faith through scripture, the Eucharist, prayer and other sacraments, will allow us to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit more fully and recognize the times we can be more charitable, virtuous and Holy in our lives. For those of us who have physical limitations, it is wonderful to know that God made us able to help the souls of others through the offering of our sufferings to Him. We may not be aware of all we do for others in this lifetime; however, one day we will be shown just what our prayers and offering up has done for souls. I, for one, am looking forward to that day.