You’ve heard me say this before, but it merits saying again.
Holiness isn’t complicated. What’s complicated are the excuses we make for not pursuing it.
That’s right, most of our obstacles to holiness are self-made.
In other words, we get in our own way to holiness. It’s a lot like tripping over our own shoelaces simply because we were too lazy to tie them. The sad part is that the obstacles we place in our path to holiness aren’t always as apparent as a pair of shoelaces. Often, we don’t see them for what they are and so we allow them to control us instead of our controlling them. There are many, many such obstacles, but there are three that I notice are more common than others. If we can tackle these obstacles, then we’re assured some decent headway on our journey to holiness. These are things we tell ourselves – or others – that make us feel better about maintaining the status quo rather than challenging ourselves to grow spiritually.
I’m no saint. Probably not, at least not at this moment in time. But you are a saint in the making and you should never forget that. All baptized Christians are obligated to the universal call to holiness, which means that we all are expected to do our best to become genuine disciples of Christ. A genuine disciple of Christ is one who constantly strives for holiness in every situation. The keyword here is “strives”. We are human and because of that, we’re prone to weakness and failure. As a matter of fact, so were the canonized saints! With the exception of the Mother of God, they weren’t born perfect; they pursued perfection by relying on God’s grace and benevolence. So, when you say, “I’m no saint,” your right. Likely, you aren’t a saint now, but you could and should be one eventually. Everyone who is in heaven is a saint, not just the ones that the Church has officially canonized. Our goal is heaven and we always should be doing our best to get there. Passing on the call to holiness by pointing to your human frailty as an excuse is an obstacle that you’ve let get in your way toward holiness. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it many times myself!
I don’t have the time. This one is my personal favorite. Why? Because it’s the one I use most often myself. Lots of folks think that holiness requires barrels and barrels of time spent in prayer, penance and doing works of mercy. Those things certainly are helpful in moving us closer to holiness but we also have to live our lives, support our families, hold down a job, clean the house, and do those “extra” things like sleeping and eating. While it would be ideal to spend the majority of our time practicing devotionals, it’s simply not practical. We have to find an acceptable balance between the two. However, devotion isn’t as much about time as it is about intention. Believe it or not, you could not utter a single prayer all day and still have practiced substantial devotion! How does that work? Think about St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way to holiness. She advised that we do small things with great love. If you focus on that throughout your day, doing each task and obligation with great love and by offering it up to God, you are practicing holiness. And none of that would have taken a single extra moment out of your day!
I don’t have the energy. This one goes hand-in-hand with #2 because the principle behind it is the same. It could well be that you’ve had a very busy day, are pulled in too many directions, suffer from chronic illness, or are recovering from an accident or injury – all of those things can be a huge energy drain, and rightfully so. The important thing is to realize and accept your limitations and work within them. Your suffering, when offered to God in the spirit of sacrifice, can do so much good for yourself and others! Simple prayers uttered spontaneously yet with great love can be as beneficial as long, formal prayers and devotions when you’re struggling to make it through the day. How about conversing with your heavenly Father during the day? He’s always there, loving you, watching over you, and listening for anything you have to say to him. Prayer, in its purest form, is a conversation with God and this can be done while you go about your day. On the other hand, you need to carefully evaluate what it is you’re spending your energy on. Where are you “leaking” energy? Are you spending too much time on your cell phone? Hanging out with people who pull you down instead of lifting you up? Are you living an unhealthy lifestyle? Are you staying up too late watching television or Netflix? All of these things sap energy – energy that could be used in a more spiritually productive way. Be honest with yourself, and you’ll see where your energy leaks are and what needs to be done to stop them. This, too, is one of my personal favorites as I’m an expert at creating and finding distractions, thus creating my own energy leaks!
If you’ve been avoiding the pursuit of holiness because you think you’re no saint or haven’t got the time or energy, please think again. You are a valued child of God, capable and called to holiness. If you truly want to pursue holiness, ask our Lord and his Mother to show you the way and give you the strength and grace you need to become a genuine disciple of Christ. They will certainly help you. Holiness isn’t complicated. What’s complicated are the excuses we make for not pursuing it.
Image: Free photo, Flickr.com