Thursday, June 15, 2006

Called to be Saints

Called to be Saints

Going to Mass on Sunday isn't enough. Trying to be a good person isn't enough. Never using bad language doesn't cut it. Being kind and patient to your kids and your neighbors is, at least, a step in the right direction. Scripture says in the Gospel of Luke, "When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say 'We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty.'"
that's yucky, I know
You've all heard about Good Friday: The agony in the Garden, the scourging at the pillar. You heard how Jesus sweat drops of blood while he was hanging on the cross. And you remember His last words were "Father, forgive them."
I want to remind you of everything else your God has done for you, too. He woke you this morning to do his work. He gave you a job and the skills to do it well. He gave you a sense of sight, hearing and smell. He gave you people that love you and maybe even, people who don't. He waits for you everyday in every situation to turn your face toward him in prayer so he can share the experience with you. That's because, as Scripture says again, He delights in you. And lastly, though the list could go on and on, he gifts you with salvation - everlasting happiness awaits you in heaven. It's like knowing there's going to be a surprise party for you, the biggest one you've ever seen, but you just don't know when it is.
Jesus lived for you, died for you and still lives in and with you. God the Father designed you uniquely; sent his Son so you could enjoy heaven and delights in you at every moment of the day. The Holy Spirit is God's gift to you, too, so you'd never feel lonely after Jesus left this earth. We have our own, personal guardian angels to support and protect us and another precious gift: a nurturing, spiritual, very Blessed Mother.
If I kept listing God's gifts to us, I could honestly go on all night. I cite them here to give us motivation. As humans we require reasons to sacrifice for others. God has given us more reasons that we need and certainly more than we deserve.
Everyone feels like they are a good person and I'm absolutely sure you are. But I am looking at your potential. I see the creation your God made you to be and the work of art you can become. God, the Creator of the whole world, created you. He chose certain elements to be a part of your personality and purposely omitted others. From his closet shelf marked "talents" he selected a very special one for you. You may already know what it is or you may still need to discover it. Ask God about that. He can help you.
So you are a work of art, a unique and unrepeated design created by God Himself. What a blessing you are! What wonderful gifts He gave you to share with others. Are you sharing them? Have you even decided in which direction your life is headed? Do you have a goal?
What is your personal mission while you are on this earth? What is the one point you want to make with your life? If we just live day after day, responding spontaneously and haphazardly to situations around us, we become eclectic. That's fine in a living room, but its not a mission statement. You need an identified spiritual purpose: a message you think people need to hear. But it can't be your own message. It has to come from God, therefore, it requires prayer. In your private conversations with Jesus, ask him what message he wants you to bring his people. Some one theme will repeat in your head and your heart over time. It will feel really right. It will be a good "fit", so to speak. It will be a message you'll feel comfortable with. In your spiritual conversations here or with others, it will be your theme. It will be a reminder from Jesus through you to others.
Find out your purpose. Ask God what your mission is. Without a goal, we are simply walking along the road with no destination. Find your mission and use it as a measuring tool for your spiritual life's journey. That's what all the prophets and the saints did. They all had a goal for God, a race to run and a prize to capture. (That's from Scripture, too.)
When God made us with all the blessing and gifts and talents we have, he saw our potential. He saw what HE wanted us to become, and it is our purpose in this life. All the saints realized that, in order to attain God's mission for them on this earth, they had to put aside their own wants and needs many times. You know what that's like. You swallow a word of anger at someone who you think really deserves it. You allow that car to cut in front of you so as not to feed into road rage. You smile and are polite to people you don't really like.
The saints did that and much, much more. They did it to an elaborate degree because they knew God deserved it and that's what made them saints. They swallowed their self will and followed God's will for them. They figured God's will needed to be accomplished more that their own will and they didn't want to be in God's way.
Being in God's way means not having a spiritual goal or not living up to your potential. It means God has to work around you because you are not cooperating with him. It means you don't recognize the gifts God gave you and therefore don't use them. Or it could mean that you know you are gifted and use those gifts only to meet your own needs. You've forgotten that God made you, gave you those gifts and that He intended for you to use them to help Him help others. These are not easy words to hear, I know. We are not doing what we can. We forget. We are not doing what we should. We are mediocre and lukewarm.
The word I used is WE and I really mean that! I am a terrible sinner in this regard. It's my biggest weakness. I am NOT preaching or admonishing at all. I am a part of the problem.
I've gotten some support and motivation from reading the lives of some Saints, and I thought I'd share some of what I learned with you; I strongly recommend you read them for yourself.
St. Clare of Assisi was impressed by Jesus' poverty. He was born in a stable and died naked on a Cross. This caused her to leave her wealthy family and live in absolute poverty, owning nothing. The religious order she created still follows that rule. We may not live in that strict kind of poverty, but we can think about the possessions we tend to accumulate.
Sister Faustina, was completely overwhelmed by Jesus' mercy and forgiveness. She felt utterly unworthy of God's blessings because of her sinfulness. She said we would be too if we could see our souls as Jesus sees them. I dread to think of Jesus looking at my soul everyday; especially if Sister Faustina was ashamed of hers. St. Therese of Liseaux is one of my very favorites. She wanted everyone everywhere to love God as he deserved to be loved and she knew that would never happen in hell. So she offered her life and made sacrifices to make up for that. She was so caught up in reverencing God that she was sad that drops of blood fell from his cross and no one could catch them. That takes real sensitivity to Jesus as a person. Our prayer life can create a personal relationship with Jesus just like St. Therese had. All we have to do is look at him very, very closely and listen to him.
St.Catherine of Sienna changed the entire course of the Catholic Church all by herself by changing the Pope's location and status. Also, to personally sacrifice for Jesus she slept and ate as little as possible. She served the poor and helped the sick whom no one else wanted to be near.
Billy Simpson was born in Cincinnati and died at age 30 in 1970. He is described in a book of saints because of his sense of humor, and service to the poor. Both Billy and St.Catherine make us think about what we are really doing for the poor. When was the last time you visited a food pantry or made a meal for the homeless?
Padre Pio died in 1968 and had the bleeding stigmata for 50 years. He spent 12 hours a day hearing confessions, because that's what he believed his mission was. He also said, "It would be easier for the earth to carry on without the sun, than without Holy Mass." Reading his life can motivate us to name our life's mission and to set a spiritual goal. Mary Ann Long died in 1959 at the age of 12. She had cancer and felt her job was to go around the hospital and comfort everyone else who was sick. At age 12 she said she did not pray for a cure, she only wanted to be that way God wanted her to be. How many times do we complain when we've got a headache or the flu? Saints frequently want to offer personal gifts to God and realize they really have nothing to offer but themselves. That's our situation, too. They often tried to overcome small personal faults. One saint's name was Teresita. She died in 1950, but spent her life overcoming her impulsive tendency.
One Beatified person (that means almost-saint) that I am growing to really admire was born in Bayonne in 1901 and died at the age of 26. She was a Sister of Charity and taught at St. Aloysius's Academy in Jersey City. Sister Miriam Teresa was brilliant, but unaccepted by the sisters in her community. They completely misunderstood her. Her spiritual director knew all of this and also knew that Sister Miriam had visions and conversations with Jesus and even experienced the gift of wearing the Crown of Thorns. He did not share this with her community, but asked her to write instructions for him to give to the other novices in that community. She wrote 2 books which the priest used to educate not only the Sisters of Charity, but Congregations world wide. It was not until after Sister Miriam's death that this information was revealed. Listen to some comments she made in the book.
The reason why we have not yet become saints is because we have not understood what it means to love. We think we do; but we do not. To love means to annihilate ones' self for the beloved. The self sacrifice of a mother for her child is only a shadow of the love with which we should love the Beloved of our soul. We must conform our lives with his in the most intimate way possible.
In another section she says, "The saints only did one thing: the will of God. But they did it with all their might." Sister Miriam always says we need to give our liberty and free will over to God. "To bring that will into submission requires persistence and sacrifice - a constant and resolute effort in the monotony of daily tasks and frequent failures; a daily struggle to conquer self. Only one thing in the world is strong enough to overcome the love of self, and that is the love of God." It's so honestly difficult, even for Sister Miriam, that she says to her spiritual director: My physical strength decreases, until what with the heat and the weariness and the sleepiness and the mosquitoes and the incessant strain of doing things I naturally don't want to do, I wonder that I am able to take another step or even stand up straight.
We don't need to change the course of history in order to become saints. We only need to love God with all our might. We need to be so in love with him that we commit ourselves to doing something about it. One saint said that feelings are utterly worthless. How we feel about God is all well and good, but what we DO about it is much more important. God set the example. His love for us made him sacrifice his only Son. Jesus followed the example. His love for us committed him to crucifixion by sinners. What does our love say? How many petty annoyances do we suffer with silently? When your personal plans are upset or tossed aside by others, what is your reaction? I actually tried this and failed miserably. I prayed and asked God to let me be annoyed. He did. I didn't even come close to the challenge. I grunted and complained. When someone disagreed with me I felt the need to clarify myself and my view. When embarrassed and corrected in front of others I needed to defend myself. When I make plans and schedule something for my own convenience I am not exactly the picture of Sister Miriam's self annihilation if those plans get changed. I get stressed.
I am not talking here about self degradation. I do not feel as God's work of art that I should put my gifts aside and be the target of others scorn. Let's not go there. Let's not get this mixed up with poor self esteem or lack of self worth. I do not mean that. I mean honest self sacrifice. If your tendency is toward self degradation, pray about that so that you don't get carried away with this in an unhealthy way.
For the most part, we know deep in our hearts how self centered we are. To be a saint, to live up to our potential means to be Jesus centered and to make his message our mission.

As I said in the beginning, we really aren't just talking about going to Mass on Sunday and not using bad language. We are talking about much, much more. We are talking about giving back to Jesus the love he deserves. We need to learn how to love the one who loves us so completely. Go to him in prayer and ask him how you can do this in your own personal life. And then, let's pray for each other to become saints.

1 comment:

  1. hey spoildchild..
    i loved this writing of your's..
    you seem like a loving and not spoilt child to me.. Thank u for your writings. God bless u abunantly :)