An old proverb says: “The thief thinks everyone steals”. And so it can happen today with our attitude towards holiness. Many people may make fun of it, ridicule it. “It is impossible, it is a farce, hypocrisy. Deep down, they are hiding their own sins. It is all a façade.”
While it is true that hypocrisy still exists and will continue existing, it is no less true that some people can arrive at a high degree of goodness and kindness. At least I believe in the possibility of holiness. I have always believed it is possible and I have always striven to achieve it myself. It has been my desire and my struggle since I was a boy. I do not think I am naïve because of it. I do not think I am just a dreamer.
If you read the Gospel attentively, you will be able to pick up that Jesus really inspired and invited people towards high moral standards. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). By perfection, the Church understands the perfection of charity, a high degree of love, kindness, generosity, self-giving, etc. We mean it not in the sense that God demands that we achieve an absolute perfection but that we strive always to improve and achieve the level of love that God wants us to have.
Now, more specifically, when we talk about this level of charity, we normally talk about the development of grace in our souls to the level of maturity. We are talking about those infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit already bearing tangible fruit in our lives in such a way that we become more readily instruments of God in this world.
The question is: Is God expecting us all to achieve this level of spiritual maturity? The answer is YES!!! In the 60’s the Vatican II council of bishops with the Pope categorically affirmed this. God expects all of us to strive towards achieving this level of spiritual maturity. Yes, it is specially required for priests and all people consecrated towards this end in the Church. However, it is also expected of all Christian faithful.
Is it realistic to think that we can achieve this level of holiness? I certainly believe so. I have seen lay people (not that many) arrive at these levels. I specifically remember a lady in my previous parish that behaved extraordinarily well under some of the most adverse circumstances: a difficult past, illness, etc. She was always a person for others. She had great inner strength. She is a woman of prayer, of kindness. Now, it is true that certain people will receive more graces from God than others. God does not give and distribute them evenly to everyone. He will choose some and grant them a greater degree of actual graces, of opportunities, of means towards the development of a higher degree of holiness than others. He does this, as I mentioned in a previous insight, because God entrusts people to people. However, he will always give every person enough graces for them to be saved and to grow in charity. So, all of us are expected to strive and aspire towards a higher degree of charity in our lives. The moment we give up striving to go higher, that will be the moment that we will start losing ground and will start our separation from God. In spiritual matters, it is impossible to stay at the same level. If we are not advancing, we are receding.
Bottom line: All of us can make significant progress in our spiritual life and arrive at a pretty advanced degree of spiritual growth if we are intentional about it. The key lies in our intentionality, in our desire. It is like everything in life. I will give you an example. Can we all become good leaders? Well, some people will have better opportunities and will receive more training and probably some people will have greater skills in terms of charisma. However, anybody who wants to improve their leadership skills can certainly do so and those who intentionally want to develop it further will make significant progress in this life. We can say the same thing about public speaking, about storytelling, about writing, etc. Is desire the only thing needed? No. Just like we will not become good at public speaking just by desiring it. However, without the desire we will achieve nothing.
During this journey we will discuss what it takes to grow in holiness. We will talk about the exercises we need to practice daily so as to master this most important of goals.
Questions for pondering:
1. How bad do you want to grow in your spiritual life?
2. What would you be willing to sacrifice to attain that?
3. Do you have a mental picture of what that would look like?
Fr Lino Otero, LC: Originally from Nicaragua, my family moved to Miami, Florida when I was a teenager. Soon afterwards I experienced the call to serve God without reservations. Since then, I have had experience in hospital ministry, working as a middle school teacher, leading a parish school, organizing soccer tournaments for kids, starting a radio station, training priests in leadership formation, organizing a parish community from maintenance to mission, and much more. I love spiritual direction and preaching. Years of philosophy, psychology and theological training have enriched my personal life and have shaped my message of hope. For more go to linootero.me