As you know I’m a volunteer teacher for the confirmation class at our parish. I’m excited to be involved in these teenagers lives and help them grow in their faith! I thought this would also be a great opportunity for me to use my blog more often. I will be writing up my take on the lesson we are teaching for that week (every other Wednesdays) and post it here.
To begin, our first lesson is,
“Called to Perfection, Holiness, and Sainthood”.
Perfection = to seek him, to know him, to love him with all our strength.
Perfection in holiness = to imitate the example of Christ. To love, to show mercy, and to forgive others just as God loves us, shows us mercy, and forgives us.
Perfection in this world may seem unrealistic, and in all reality it truly is impossible. In the beginning Adam and Eve sinned against their own creator, forever tarnishing humankind with sin. We are imperfect creatures made by a perfect hand.
How can we even think to be perfect when it is truly impossible?
There were only two in our entire race that were created entirely perfect; the Mother of God and Jesus Christ himself. Even in human form God cannot be imperfect, and Mary was chosen and preserved by God from the stain of sin.
Again, what can be accomplished by wasting our time attempting to be perfect when we know we can’t?
But here’s the thing, it isn’t a waste of time. God calls us to perfection, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my life it’s that all things are possible through God. To be perfect means to serve God and others.
Matthew 19:20 Jesus says to the rich man,
“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
To be perfect is to be selfless. To think of God and others before yourself.
But, perfection in holiness requires more than just mimicking Christ’s ways and more than obeying the commandments. It requires a true relationship with God, to know him personally and intimately.
There are many ways in which this can be accomplished, some of which are: going to church, setting aside time for prayer, and reading the Bible.
Some may think all this is a waste of time and energy since we know we can’t truly be perfect. But I believe it is in trying that God judges.
For example, if we try to live our lives serving God and others, try with all our being to be selfless, I believe God will see this and say “They are trying to do their best when they know it cannot be accomplished there on earth. I see this and I see that it is good.”
Whereas someone who gives up and just lives life as it comes and doesn’t try to live to serve God and others, someone who does whatever they want may not be seen as well in God’s eyes. “They are not trying to live in my way, and serve only themselves.”
But in trying we can’t say “Oh, I tried at least and it didn’t work out so I’m just going to do whatever.” we have to truly try with all our hearts, and if we notice that we have done well in one instance we must try even harder to go beyond that, always striving to better ourselves.
Holiness = believing what God has revealed to us and seeking to do his will in all things, loving and serving him and our neighbors in response to the perfect love that he has given.
Holiness is not just reserved for those who are recognized as being great. It is not a title that is won by some kind of deed. It is a journey, or pilgrimage. Holiness is something we are striving for, and again it can’t be found here on earth.
Humans were created not simply for life on earth but for eternal life in heaven. Many people forget about this fact and try to live their earthly life to the extreme, fitting as much exciting things as they can into their lives before they die.
People assume that life ends after we die, that there is nothing else to be done once that final breath leaves us. But there is. Our life on earth is just the beginning, just a trial; A trial we have to pass in order to proceed to something far greater. Our journey toward perfection and holiness ends when we die; it is when God finally embraces us into his arms in heaven that perfect holiness is granted.
Some of us, myself included, are slightly frightened by this thought, that there is something more beyond this life. Our simple human minds can’t comprehend the will of God and therefore the thought that this life on earth is not all that we were meant for is strange and disturbing.
Perfection and holiness are connected in the sense that one is not accomplished without the other. Perfection is to Holiness as Holiness is to Perfection. They go hand in hand, so when we strive to become perfect we strive to become holy.
They both require that we love and serve God and neighbor to the best of our human ability, and they both are attained only in heaven.
Saint = any member of the faithful who is committed to seeking holiness.
Saint is derived from the Latin word Sanctus, which means Holy. So when we strive to be perfectly holy we are striving to become saints.
The history of the Church is that of Holiness. By the virtue of baptism we all are called to be holy witnesses of Christ in all circumstances.
Over the course of 2,000 years there have been many men and women who have lived such beautiful lives, fully committed to serving and loving God and neighbor.
Some of these men and women are recognized in the Church as saints.
We don’t know who all will be in heaven but those who have been revealed by God to us through miraculous appearances or healings are indeed recognized as saints. Again, the known saints are those God chosen to reveal to us. Who is to say that my grandpa isn’t a saint? Perhaps he is. Unless God chooses to reveal him to me I won’t know for certain. But those he has revealed I believe are worthy of our recognition as people who are perfect in the eyes of God, and to be set aside as people to look up to as examples of Christian living.
The desire for holiness has empowered so many men and women to even die for what they believed and proclaimed (martyrs). It’s an incredible thought, that someone was so confident in their belief that they gave up their life for it, that this truth was more important than their own life.
John 17:14, Jesus says,
“I gave them your word [Father], the world hated them, because they do not belong to this world anymore than I belong to this world.”
For this reason many reject the truth that we proclaim, sometimes in brutal and violent ways. Sometimes we feel we are alone on our journey and the hatred and rejection scars our very souls. But Jesus made a promise to us, and one I hold closest to my heart:
“…And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Christ expects us to strive for perfection and holiness, to become saints in our very ordinary lives. We are called to live always with the ultimate goal of heaven in our hearts.
“The Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecution and God’s consolation.”
~ Saint Augustine, the convert.
Peace be with you,
Socias, James Rev. Introduction to Catholicism Illinois: Midwest Theological Forum, 2011. Print.