On the temptation to not be a Saint.
My dear friends, today we celebrate the Last Sunday of the Season after Pentecost, and with this, we put an end to the liturgical year.
The next Sunday we will be beginning the Holy Season of Advent, which will lead us to prepare for the coming of our Lord.
And as we finish this liturgical year, we are bound once again to look into our lives for reformation and improvement, as the Church guides us through these different stages of spiritual preparation.
I have been talking about this a lot, and I will continue to do so, perhaps, because the Priest, as a good coach, is bound not only to give the right doctrine, and to provide correction when needed, but also to encourage and as it were, to push and continuously compel us to improve our lives.
And on those lines, today I would like to talk to you about a common temptation. It is so common, that I cannot think of anyone who never had it, at some point in their lives, Our Lady excluded, of course.
And that is the temptation of not becoming a Saint.
And might think: “Jeez, Father… I wish I only had to deal with that temptation!”
But I would reply: This temptation is the source of many if not most of all of our temptations!
What exactly do I mean by the temptation of not becoming a Saint?
I mean the temptation to despair from seeking perfection.
I mean that temptation of saying: “I am too far gone, I’ll never be perfect, or improve these defects, or become the man or the woman I am meant to be.”
I mean that temptation to say: “I messed up in life, I messed up as a parent, I messed up as a son, or as a Catholic, and now I just have to live with who I am and try to make it to confession before I die…”
It is that temptation to say: “All those perfect things that they say in the sermon are not meant for me, I am too big of a sinner, I am too weak, I would be a hypocrite, and I would be acting with falsehood, because I know that’s not me.”
And notice that I am not talking about despair from the theological virtue of Hope necessarily, because a person in this state might believe that he/she can be saved. But they are deceived in believing that they should not pursue a better state in life, or a higher spiritual perfection.
You might feel that I am exaggerating. St. Theresa of Avila had this same temptation. “The worst of all” she called it. At one point during the beginning of her life as a Carmelite sister in the relaxed order of Mount Carmel, she was failing, according to her, in her duties as a religious nun.
Her imperfections and caused her to feel embarrassed to go to prayer, and to pursue a more pious life. And so, following this temptation, to “not become a Saint” as I called it, she refused to do mental prayer, or rather to try hard at it.
Only after the death of her Father, and going to confession to a wise Priest, did she come to the realization that she had been fooled into thinking like that, and she started seriously pursuing her spiritual growth and the salvation of her soul… And she did become a Saint.
We must reject the idea that it is too late for us to change. That I have messed up and there is nothing I can do. That I must continue in my faults and errors, because it is just impossible to get rid of them.
Our Faith demands it.
Do you not believe, as Christ has taught us, that when you go to confession, your sins are destroyed, they are blotted out?
Hear what Our Lord himself tells us, through Isaiah, in Chapter 43:
“I am, I am he that blot out thy iniquities for my own sake, and I will not remember thy sins.”
Notice, my dear friends, that our Lord tells us that our sins will be destroyed, as it were, putting himself, his eternal essence for a witness: “I am”! There is nothing more solemn to make a promise good, than putting God as a witness. And here he does that, to tell us, that our sins will be blotted out.
He tells us further, that He will not remember. They are gone. And thus it is, that when we go to confession, the Priest afterward, acts just as God does. How could the Priest remember sins, or act upon what he heard in the person of God, when those sins are no more?
And so, from God’s part, they are inexistent. All that is left of them is the scar that remains in our soul, and can be removed and purified by penance or purgatory.
But if your heart is still troubled, if this temptation has sunk in so deep that it is hard for you to believe hear our Lord again, for he tells us:
“If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.” (Isaiah, c.1)
And how many times did our Lord say: “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven”?
It seems hard to believe, but believe we must, and as much as it pains us, that God would forgive us just like that; Because our love towards him would make us wish to be punished, or at least to not be forgiven so easily, we would wish that much more was demanded from us; yet we must believe the words of our Lord, and come out of confession with the conviction that my sins are destroyed!
What boundless mercy of our Lord!
But there is a purpose for that.
And here is, again, where we differ from Protestantism. Luther would have us believe that our sins are not destroyed, but only hidden. And he preaches, furiously, that your sins are indestructible, unavoidable, and necessary. What a dreadful and diabolical perspective!
Furthermore, they say: You cannot, you can never improve, you can never become perfect, pure, chaste, prudent, silent, charitable, forgiving. You will always have sin.
They preach that temptation, a temptation from the devil: “not to become a Saint.”
And they preach it well. Consistent with that, in order further to convince you of this, they refuse to put examples before you of those who were perfect. Lest you might believe, and follow them.
But see my dear friends, as Catholics, we believe in the destruction, the eradication of our sins. And we believe that God has given us that, in order that we may begin, right after confession, to become Saints, and to attain perfection.
He does not make us begin the race from the beginning, but brings us back to where we were.
We are called to sanctity, as Catholics we are. And it is possible, and easy. And the contrary idea, wherever it might come from, is not humility, is not sincerity, is a diabolical and pestilent temptation from the devil.
“If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow”
You have plenty of work to do. Plenty of things to improve. No, you are not supposed to remain in your state. You are supposed to change, and you can! Particularly after confession and communion.
No matter how much you have messed up in your life. Yes, you will have consequences. Bare them, and become a Saint by that patient suffering. And your life will be the best it could be.
No matter how bad of a parent you might be or have been or think you are. Change. You can change, it is given to you, if you only take it. Acknowledge what mistakes have been made. Correct them. Fall, and get up. Begin to fight against the consequences of previous errors. But don’t lay on the conception that it is too late, or you cannot change. Your life begins a new, and you can become a Saint, by starting today, fresh, to become a holy mother, or a holy father.
No matter how horrible sins you have committed, no matter how frequently, no matter how egregiously, they are forgiven, and yes, you should be pious, you should pray, you should be a “church-man” or a “church-woman”, which is to say a Godly woman, or a Godly man, because penitent sinners are great saints, and it would be sinful, and cowardice not to take what God has given you, your sins are gone. Your enemies destroyed. Now, courageously, become a Saint.
Let us then, end this year, by recognizing this temptation, and never again let it set in our souls. Yes, we will fall. Yes, it will be hard to improve, to change, but it belongs to me. It is my destiny, my fulfillment, my vocation, my path. I will, can be, and will be entirely different, more perfect, purer, more chaste, more charitable, more religious, more of God, than of the world, this is our calling: As the apostle, St. Paul said:
“This is the will of God: Your Sanctification.” In Nomine Patris…