(This talk was given before a Men’s Retreat in South America).
There is still a part that needs to be explored for any of us who claim a spiritual life. It is the path to personal holiness.
The path to personal holiness.
It’s the path that each of the 12 apostles followed and it is the same path that every saint and every holy person has found and followed.
It’s the same path that each of us must follow in order to deepen our relationship with God and with those around us.
It begins with a retreat like this or any spiritual event or moment that makes us aware of the presence of Jesus Christ within us. That moment — that very seminal moment — is when we start the journey and it can be today.
The path to personal holiness begins with a deep introspection – a deep, frank and honest look at ourselves. The questions that need to be answered are multiple. It begins with the basic, first question: Do I want the presence of Jesus Christ to come alive in my life? If I do then I need to go deeper into myself.
- Who am I as a man – husband, father and friend?
- Do I show the marks of compassion and forgiveness in my life in each of those relationships?
- How often do I think of me first before the others in my life?
- How often do I put my feelings, my ego, my sensitivities before those that I love?
- How often have I failed in those relationships by not showing caring and compassion?
- What are the gifts that the Lord has given me?
- How often do I use those gifts with others?
- How often do I use those gifts and offer them to others with love, compassion and forgiveness?
- How often do my words and actions imitate Christ?
- Do I start my day and dedicate it to Christ? Do I ask Christ to help me be more like him or do I start my day by only asking for His blessing?
You see, the path to personal holiness requires an unequivocal commitment to imitating Jesus Christ in all that we do. That requires an acute sensitivity to the impact of our words and our actions on all those around us.. Not just those we love but everyone who comes in contact with us in a day.
It is not about LOOKING HOLY – some people do that very well but it is not sincere. Instead, it is about BEING HOLY.
What does that mean? Well, the hallmark of being holy is contained in the Second Great Commandment. I know you know this passage from Matthew 22:
The disciple asked: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
ALL the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Jesus was not suggesting. Jesus was not asking. He was stating a fact. He was stating the way He and His Father expected us to act. A fact that if it had been followed would have changed our world completely. Imagine if man did love his neighbor as much as he did love himself. There would have been no crusades, no wars, no Atom Bomb, no Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, no Iran, no ISIS, no Noriega!
But that IS what we are called to do. It isn’t loving our neighbor only, it is more than that. It is treating our neighbor as Jesus would have treated our neighbor. It is being able to open ourselves to ACCEPT a lot of things with which we disagree. That DOES NOT MEAN SIN. We are not asked to accept that which is displeasing to God. But we are asked to love the sinner. After all, did not Jesus invite the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the beggars and the lepers to sit with him?
And we are asked to do more when I say that we are asked to treat our neighbor as Jesus would have treated our neighbor. It means that we have to first examine our own nature to be sure that our view of our neighbor is not tainted by our own personal prejudices or beliefs. We need to be sure that our heart is open and that we are seeing our neighbor as he or she really is. If we are then we are asked to respond to that neighbor with love.
Within our families, we, as the head of the household, are supposed to be the Christ figure in our families. Our families look to us to set the standard, to set the tone of how we live as a family, to be the role model for them.
To do that, we need to be sensitive to not only the words from our mouths and the actions from our hands but the consequences of those words and actions. What impact do they have on our family and friends? What do they say about us as followers of Christ?
Make no mistake about it. This is hard. First, a truthful self-examination is both hard and sometimes painful. Secondly, it is hard to act in the role of Christ every day.
To do that means that we will tread a road that is thorny to our feet and prickly to our conscience. There are some days that we will absolutely fail. There are some days that we will lose sight of what we are supposed to do and how we are supposed to act. We will stumble.
But is our stumbling any more painful than Jesus Christ when He stumbled carrying the weight of the cross? Is our losing sight of what we are to be doing any more painful than when Jesus cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane: “ Father, if it thy will, let this cup pass from me?.”
To find our own path to personal holiness, by its very nature, means that the path will be difficult. To claim personal holiness means that we will have struggled so hard and for so long that we have finally captured the prize.
What is the prize? It is union with Jesus Christ. It is so honoring the three natures of God that we come to emulate the person of Jesus Christ, the goodness of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God, the Father.
For too long, we have forgotten that. For too long, our faith has been made easy. But it was not easy for the thousands of holy me and women who preceded us and who made the Church that which it is today. Hundreds shed their blood for their faith and died horrible deaths rather than renounce their belief in Jesus Christ. For too long, our modern world has ignored the pleas of Mary, our Mother when she appeared at Fatima, and at other sites. She pleaded with us to not only pray more but to change the way we live.
As you look at the world that exists today, do not despair. Instead, look at the word today as a place in which you have a part. Your role – my role – is to make that small slice of our life, that small part of the world over which we have control, a place in which Jesus walks. Jesus asks no more than that. Take the part of the world you can control – your home, your work place, your neighbors and friends and begin affecting them by the way you live your life. Live your life as a true follower of Christ.
When we have done that, you have found the path to personal holiness and the path on which El Senor can walk in peace with us every day of our lives.