2 Maccabees 7:9 The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.
You have probably heard of the book called, “The Purpose-Driven Life”. A lot of people have used its 40-day program to sort out what God may be asking of them. We can spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out our purpose in life. There is nothing wrong with that. But, as Catholic Christians, we are taught that our ultimate goal and purpose is sanctity. We are called―all of us―to a life of holiness. Anything that does not lead us to holiness, no matter how good it may seem, is a distraction. God wants all of us to become saints. Only saints make it to heaven. Yet, how many of us have made sanctity our main goal in life?
Author Frank Sheed, in his book, Theology for Beginners, made this observation:
“As a body, we hope to go to heaven, which means spending eternity with the Blessed Trinity, and we expect the experience to be wholly blissful; but in the prospect of spending an hour with the Blessed Trinity here below, there is no anticipation of bliss.”
How true! The evil one is very good at finding all manner of distractions that on the surface seem so much more agreeable than prayer. But without prayer, we will likely never become a saint. Anyone reading this article probably has a great desire to work towards sanctity. We all want to spend eternity in heaven. But our call to sanctity has a deeper aspect. If we do not consider the effects of our sanctity―or lack thereof―on those around us, we are missing the main point of our call to holiness. God does not call us to holiness for ourselves alone, but in order that his light may be made available to everyone who is in the world. His light is not static, but active and transformative. In what may only be described as a great mystery of faith, weak and broken souls like us are called to participate in God’s saving action on earth.
I have spent some time recently listening to presentations by Marino Restrepo (links included at the end of this article). Marino’s testimony is amazing. Away from the Church for 33 years, he dabbled in all manner of New Age practices and led a very sinful lifestyle. At age 47 he was kidnapped by Colombian guerrillas and held prisoner in the jungle. Fifteen days into his captivity, at a very low point, the Lord appeared to him. He experienced an illumination of conscience, and had visions of heaven, purgatory, and hell. For the remaining five months of his grueling captivity, he begged the Lord not to let him die without confession. Miraculously, after several months, the rebels let him go. He now travels the world telling his story, calling the world to repentance and exhorting Christians to greater sanctity.
Everyone is called to sanctity. Everyone is offered grace, and everyone is free to reject that grace. Marino says that sometimes in families there is only one person who has accepted the call to faith. But that is not a reason to despair, for that person is chosen to be a conduit of grace for all the other members of the family. He says, “Your acceptance of the call to sainthood is a gift to your whole family.” In other words, God has given them the gift of your faith.
Marino says that the person of faith is given all the graces being rejected by other family members. What a gracious hope! This is confirmed by St. Faustina in her Diary, #1294: “The Lord has given me to know that when a soul does not accept the graces intended for it, another soul receives them immediately.” Marino says that because of the dark times we live in and the fact that so many are rejecting the graces God wants to give the world, “there has never been a greater opportunity to achieve sainthood than today.”
It follows that after receiving holy Communion, it would be a good idea to pray, “Lord Jesus, I accept all the gifts and graces it pleases you to give me at this time, and all those being rejected by others. Also, please renew in me all the graces I have ever received through the Eucharist, so that your holy will may be accomplished in the world, for your glory. Amen.”
Part of Marino’s message to Catholics is that we are not “better” than anyone else, but that we are entrusted with the great responsibility of being Eucharistic warriors. When we receive the Eucharist, we feed the world. As Eucharistic warriors we need to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation often. In this way the light of Christ shines through us into the world, unimpeded. We become agents of grace, often without even being aware. But if we are aware, we can use this grace to ever-greater capacity.
The call to a life of penance is a call to holiness. The Rule helps keeps us on the path to sanctity. By embracing the call, we become beacons of light, conduits of God’s love to the world. Let us embrace that call with renewed fervor in this dark hour. The Lord has need of willing workers. Let us embrace Our Lady’s “Fiat” for the glory of God. Amen.
(Marino’s website: http://www.marinorestrepo.com/usa/index_usa.htm. To view recorded talks by Marino Restrepo you can go to http://www.youtube.com and search for his name. To find the talks referenced in this article add one of the following search terms to his name in the search field: Testimony or Spiritual Warfare Part 2 or Radical Change. The talks are divided into several parts. I also highly recommend his book, “From the Darkness in to Light” and “Catholics Awake!”.)