Sunday, July 10, 2011

Your Personal Apostolate: Chapter Eight

A series of blogs presenting you the contents of the book, an award-winning love story for every soul.

Not sure what God has in store for you?
His plans are wondrous, loving and beautiful.

Accept Him, seek Him, love Him,
and return His love to those around you.

Prepare to be amazed, for
God is at work in you!

Chapter Eight ~ The Crucial Role of Sanctity

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples – for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Mark 2:13-17.

Jesus’ decision to eat with tax collectors and sinners was scandalous behavior in those times. Back then Jesus sought out sinners throughout His public ministry and incurred the wrath of the Pharisees, who were enraged that He would dwell with, teach, and reach out to the sinful. Jesus continues this “scandalous” behavior to this day, by reaching out to His creation. Loving us is never scandalous behavior to God, and yet He incurs our wrath in modern times by challenging us to be sanctified. He loves us all and encourages us to embrace holiness as we reconcile with Him, with ourselves, and with each other.

This chapter discusses the importance of deciding in favor of holiness day by day, moment by moment as we seek to emulate Christ. Historically, the original sin committed by Adam and Eve altered God’s original plan for humanity and resulted in a division between man and God. Our Merciful God promised a Savior to conquer sin and restore the human race. At the appointed time, Jesus became man and took our sins upon Himself to satisfy Divine Justice. The fulfillment of God’s plan came about through the sacrificial love and obedience of Jesus.

Jesus’ Passion and Death on the Cross made passage into heaven possible for all people. However, to make God’s plan of restoration and Jesus’ sacrifice come to fruition, each of us must cooperate in our own redemption. Even though Jesus died to save us, sin continues to distance each one of us from God, and a soul can still perish of its own free will by deciding not to cooperate with God. “God wants us ‘all to be saved’; for this reason He gave us His Son, and with Him and through Him, all the means necessary for our salvation. Therefore, if a soul is not saved, it alone will be responsible” (Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy 6) 13.

Sanctity is “…the perfection of the Christian life… As grace grows and flourishes in our soul, its influence becomes deeper and wider; and when this influence extends effectively to all our actions, directing them solely to God’s glory and uniting us wholly to Him by means of charity, then we have reached the fullness of Christian life, sanctity” (Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy) 14 .“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15).

Our salvation depends on our efforts to live holy lives. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Beyond the Cross, it is our duty to merit our salvation through the choices we make and by the love that we share. Our behavior leads to very real outcomes for ourselves and for other people. Thus, sanctity becomes vital to discipleship, as we strive to live holy lives and encourage holiness in others. To live in uniformity with God’s Will, we must incorporate sanctity into our everyday existence. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

When does sanctity begin within us? “Baptism has deposited within us this seed of sanctity, which is grace, a seed capable of blossoming into precious fruits of supernatural and eternal life for the soul which zealously cultivates it. By elevating us to the supernatural state, grace makes us capable of entering into relations with the Blessed Trinity, that is, capable of knowing and loving God as He is in Himself, as He knows and loves Himself.” (Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy) 15.

To grow in sanctity we must seek to become closer to God by following His commandments. We become sanctified when we honor His Sacraments, attend Mass, make frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and do penance for our sins. We become like Jesus when we receive Him in the Eucharist. We become more Christ-like when we converse with God through prayer, read His Living Word in the Bible, and properly educate ourselves in the Catholic Faith. We become holy when we are obedient to His Will. “…our following of Christ, who is God made man, is the infallible road to sanctity. This same incarnate God is the source of all the graces we need to become holy. As He told us, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ Without His grace, our minds are blind. Without His grace, our wills are helpless to do what He wants of us to reach that blessed destiny for which we were made” (Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives, Christology) 16.

Crucial to our sanctity is our efforts to become Christ–like by sharing His love however and whenever we can with other people. “It has been said it makes no difference what you believe; it all depends on how you act. This is psychological nonsense, for a man acts out of his beliefs. Our Lord placed truth or belief in Him first; then came sanctification and good deeds. But here truth was not a vague ideal, but a Person. Truth was now lovable, because only a Person is lovable. Sanctity becomes the response the heart makes to Divine truth and its unlimited mercy to humanity” (Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ) 17.

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:7-12).

Sanctity is crucial to loving God, ourselves, and each other! Thus sanctity is essential to our apostolate. Each of us is called to live a life of sanctity. We become sanctified through the work we put into our relationship with God, and our sanctity bears much fruit through the work we do in our personal apostolate. May we look to God to strengthen and guide us as we grow in holiness, each and every day.

The Crucial Role of Sanctity: A Personal Reflection

Several years ago my mother wisely suggested that I have a physical examination to ensure good health through my trials. The doctor found that I had an hyperactive thyroid. The specialist confirmed the diagnosis and also found a second problem: a nodule on the back of my thyroid. He suggested the nodule be biopsied to rule out cancer. While lying on the biopsy gurney in the hospital, five needles were inserted in my neck. I remember thinking that it was hard to imagine things getting any worse. There I was, a single parent in the middle of a very difficult divorce, three small children, constant persecution, house for sale, security gone, future very uncertain, two new health concerns, one possibly cancer.

Perhaps this story could have been a personal reflection for Chapter 6, Sharing Jesus’ Passion. Certainly I felt like there were many parallels with my situation and the Passion of Jesus. Persecuted, lied about, scorned, and hated. Betrayed by one I had trusted. Mocked and forced to go to court. Mistreated further by the justice system. As the judge publicly declared the death of my marriage, I imagined Jesus publicly condemned to death. Possessions taken. The moment the sale sign was driven into the front lawn of our yard, I thought of the blows of the hammer as Jesus was nailed to the cross. Mystical suffering in union with Jesus.

An event stands out during this time of tremendous suffering which fits right into this chapter on the crucial role of sanctity. My children and I were still living in the house we had built, awaiting a sale so we could move somewhere else. The responsibilities of caring for the house and raising three small children while being persecuted inside and outside of court was crushing. Fortunately, God sent my mother and sister to help us, and they were very loving collaborators. We lived in a rural area and were rather isolated. I remember thinking once that if I died, hardly anyone would ever remember me. I was tempted during my trials to think that my life did not matter. The truth is that my life, and everyone else’s life, matters. Our lives matter a great deal!

Maintaining the large house was my responsibility. Unfortunately things often broke, very unusual because the house and almost everything in it were new. One day I was going downstairs to address the broken water filter in the basement. I remember feeling very overwhelmed by everything and not having the faintest idea what to do with the broken water filtration system. Suddenly right there on the stairs I received a very hostile interior locution: “You are nothing but a stupid housewife!” The hateful nature of the message was shocking. I thought for a moment, and then replied out loud, “I am NOT!” Good for me!

Later I contemplated why a rather unknown and isolated young mother who was being relentlessly persecuted by someone she had loved and trusted, not working for money and recently denied a worldly title would be the target of such loathing and hatred. I was a target because my life has great purpose. By loving my children, seeking to be holy in the everyday and ordinary, and striving to become closer to God, I was a huge threat to the enemies of good. Thus, evil lashed out at me with its fury.

In retrospect, I can see the attack on my personhood as a “housewife” during a time of great trial was significant for two reasons. It proves that suffering has great value, as does the ethical work we accomplish each and every day. Ordinary work is made extraordinary with the power of God’s love. My suffering has produced many precious fruit. One of the sweetest for me personally has been this book.

The Crucial Role of Sanctity: For the Reader

What does the idea of taking responsibility for your salvation by living a holy life mean to you? What are some ways that you accomplish this? What are some other ways you can increase your sanctity? In what ways have your triumphs and trials led you to become holier? Do you see your life as having great purpose? Are you embracing that purpose fully? Have you asked God to help you?

Dear Lord,
Please help us to embrace
Your magnificent offer
of redemption and sanctification,
made possible and obtainable by
the power of
Your great love for each of us.
May we strive to aid others
in this quest we all share
through the loving service
of our apostolate.

Next: Chapter 9 ~ The Greatest Commandment