Thursday’s Gospel from Matthew clarifies again for us the common and continual focus of the Christian journey: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. These words of Jesus call us to the central and life long effort of every believer, to know and accomplish the Father’s will.
Wednesday night, I had the chance to speak with a group of sixteen college students at St. Paul Newman Center at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. This group of young men and women meet once a month as a means of supporting each other in discerning God’s will and their vocation in life. With final exams next week, I was impressed that they came for this evening. It was great to visit with them and to share my own journey of discovery and struggle to answer and live God’s call. It appeared from the looks on their faces that my experience had manyconnections to theirs.
The first thing I told this group, and repeated several times through the course of the evening is this: what the Church needs most today is for all of us to take our call to holiness seriously. This is fundamentally what it means to do the will of my Father in heaven. As St. Paul tells us in the First Letter to the Thessalonians: This is the will of God, your holiness;(1 Thes 4:3) More and more today, it is important to “connect the dots”… Jesus is telling us, if we want to get to heaven, we must know and fulfill the Father’s will. Anybody want to get to heaven???? Then, we connect this to the next dot…The Father’s will is that we be holy.
So often today, people are content to “be good”. Though this is admirable, it is a subtle way of the prevailing secular philosophy to disconnect us from our life in God…our life in Jesus Christ. I hope when I die, someone can say a few more things over my grave than “He was a good man.” Please God, someone will be able to say: “He was a holy man.” and please God, it will be true!
To be “good” means to be conformed to the world…to not rock the boat. To be “holy”, on the other hand, calls to mind another passage of St. Paul: Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2) Holiness, by definition, is to allow ourselves to be more and more conformed to the person of Jesus Christ.
Our Church today needs everyone of us to take this call to holiness seriously. We need our bishops, priests, deacons, and religious to be holy. We need our married couples, families and young people to be holy. We need our single people to realise the gift they are to the Church, and their call to live a sacred, single, celibate life; in short, to be holy.
We have all we need to accomplish this in the fundamental way Jesus provides for all our needs. He left us His Word in the Gospel. He left us His presence in the Sacraments of the Church. In Baptism, we are brought into the very life of Christ, and He enters in a real way into our human life. Through the other sacraments of the Church, He continues to nourish His presence within us, giving us the grace to let go of our own selfish self will, and with deeper and deeper levels of freedom, to live the will of the Father.
One final thought: for us as Christian Catholics, Jesus is at the heart of this call to holiness…again, connecting the dots. Jesus is the living presence and revelation of the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. No one knows the Son, except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. (MT 11:27) If we are serious about our call to holiness, we must be serious about our relationship with Christ, for He alone can lead us to the Father, who holds our best interest at heart, in His providential will!
Who does not seek a meaningful and fulfilling life? Then, come to Jesus, who will lead us to the Father, who will lead us through this life, to our heavenly home.