Headline: Option Holiness in a World of Sin

Posted on: 2014-11-17

The primordial attraction

Be proud to be pure, hasten to be holy! That is just one reasonable slogan I see around our youth in recent times. Saint Paul would love that, for he once said to the Thessalonians: “This is the will of God, that you be holy” (1Thess 4:3). Too often in our day, virtuous living is made to look undesirable. Nothing however can change the truth that holiness is more original to man than sin. Holiness is man’s destiny, sin, his misfortune. The original essence of man when God breathed into him was holy. That is why the penny Catechism taught that God made us to love him to know him and to serve him. That is why God said “Be holy for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:1). The Church cannot stop calling everyone to holiness for that is the vortex towards which all her life gyrates. Hear it from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): “From the Church he, (the Christian) receives the grace of the sacraments that sustain him on the ‘way’. From the Church he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary: he discerns it in the authentic witness of those who live it: he discovers it in the spiritual tradition and long history of the saints who have gone before him and whom the liturgy celebrates in the rhythms of the sanctoral cycle”. (CCC 2030).

Sustaining the holiness project

The Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated in the Catholic Church worldwide on Nov 1. It is an occasion set aside to celebrate those who have lived with excellence in spiritual things as far as human standards can measure, It is an occasion to also glorify God for doing great things through human beings in contrast to the human tendency of ascribing success to self. The reason behind the entire cult of saints and the celebration of All Souls Day, celebrated on November 1 and 2 respectively, is precisely to provide a bank of inspiration where believers can draw from in their pursuit of holiness. Both celebrations recall the bond among those who, though departed, are with God (the Church Triumphant), those who still need atonement for sins committed (the Suffering Church) and those of us who are still in the battlefield of daily living (the Church Militant). All together they form the Church, the body of Christ and the one family of God. How sad that many people pay so little attention to this mainstream aspect of Church life which has the capacity to inspire and strengthen them in their life journey and relationship with God!  However, the Church continues to canonize saints, who before us have faced the challenges of life in full colour and candour and have lived through it all in a heroic, exemplary manner. In the early Church only martyrs were venerated as saints but that expanded to include heroes of faith in various ways. The Church reminds us that such people are found in every land and walk of life by recognizing all classes and races of people through the process of canonization.

The best God meant us to be

We all need to be reminded that holiness is desirable and possible for us all, no matter what our profession and occupation may be. Someone said that religion is betting your life that there is a God. That, precisely is what Saints do, accomplishing great feats for God that others would think impossible! 2014 has been a great year in this regard. The canonization, in June, of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II further demonstrates that no matter how exalted the position or responsibility, no matter how tough the challenges may be, everyone indeed can be holy. The process of their canonization was exactly the same as it was for catechists, housemaids, housewives, youths and even children who had been canonized before them. In fact, each of us too are called to be the best God meant us to be for that is what holiness entails. Even in this rather incredulous society plagued by modernist tendencies, holiness can be acceptable and even attractive.

God alone has complete records

The solemnity of All Saints commemorates not only the saints listed by the Church but all those known to God alone who have lived a life of heroic spiritual virtues in ways that only God can determine. For example, saints celebrated by name in the Church represent many more who have died in many different persecutions which Christians have experienced especially in contemporary times. The truth is that if the world would always love the Church, the Church would be no salvation to it. The logic of success for both Church and world simply cannot be the same. That is why Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that the law of progress of the Church is the reverse of the law of progress of the world. In vain does the world try to put out the light of Truth which the Church shines out because it is blinding to pervasive evil. He said: “And although the world is tearing up all the photographs and blueprints of a society and family based on the moral law of God, be not disheartened. The Church has kept the negatives”. Summarily, therefore, valuing sainthood in today’s materialistic and relativist world is an eloquent sign of faith in humanity and an evidence of hope in God’s promise. Humanity will not forever be lost to sin as Jesus said: “all that the father gives to me will come to me” (Jn. 6:37). So, let us all take an early train and opt for holiness even as we navigate this world of sin.