MONDAY OF THE THIRTIETH WEEK OF THE YEAR II
Psalm 1:1–2, 3, 4 and 6 (R. cf. Eph 5:1)
I Want to Be a Saint
Saint Paul would have us be nothing less than “imitators of God” (Eph 5:1). This is the Apostle’s way of presenting the universal call to holiness. You will never become saint unless you want to be a saint. It is indispensable to say to oneself frequently, “I want to be a saint.” That is, after all, what God wants for each of us. One who says, “I want to be a saint” is simply aligning his own will with the glorious will of God. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Th 4:3).
If, at least once a day, you say to yourself, “I want to be saint,” a number of things will happen. You will begin to adjust your perspective on life. You will set your priorities in order. Things that you judged important will become unimportant, and things that you judged unimportant will become important.
Our Gaze Bent on Him
Say to yourself, “I want to be a saint,” and you will begin to see all the time and the energy you have wasted on the pursuit of trivial things. Saint Teresa of Jesus says, “O Lord, all our ills come from not fixing our eyes on Thee: if we looked at nothing else but where we are going we should soon arrive, but we fall a thousand times and stumble and go astray because we do not keep our gaze bent on Him Who is the ‘Way’” (The Way of Perfection, Chapter 16, 8).
Kind to One Another
Saint Paul gives us some rules of conduct. “Be kind to one another” (Eph 4:32), he says. Unkindness is manifested in a variety of ways. Devout people generally shy away from overt expressions of unkindness, but permit themselves certain passive–aggressive patterns of behaviour that are just as hurtful and, yes, just as sinful. When these passive–aggressive patterns of behaviour are repeated day after day they become habitual sin or vice.
Fit for the Holy Sacrifice
“Walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). One who walks in love does not accumulate resentment along the way. Charity — the sacrificial love revealed by Our Lord in His Passion — is a costly love. It involves letting go of every temptation to resentment, hostility, anger, and hatred before the poison spreads, making us unfit for participation in the Eucharist. Jesus Crucified, Priest and Victim, was a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2); one who comes to Holy Mass harbouring ill–will or resentment in his heart, mingles the repulsive stench of sin with the fragrant offering of Christ’s spotless oblation.
Procession to the Altar
By saying, “walk in love,” Saint Paul reminds us that that holiness is a journey, a procession to the altar where the Sacrifice of the Cross is renewed. When you are tempted to bitterness, anger, jealousy, resentment, or judging, ask yourself, “Do I want to bring this to the altar today?” You will do one of two things. Either you will cast it far from you and proceed, trusting in God’s mercy or, God forbid, you will cling to it and approach the Holy Mysteries in an unworthy manner. The Apostle says, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we strong than He?” (1 Cor 10:21–22).
Separation from the World
Certain things, says Saint Paul, must not even be mentioned among those called to holiness: “immorality and all impurity or covetousness” (Eph 5:3), “filthiness, silly talk, and levity” (Eph 3:4). Contemporary culture makes this extremely difficult. What do you see on television and in the other media if not immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, silly talk, and levity? It is more than ever necessary for all Christians, and not just enclosed monks and nuns, to practice the spirit of separation from the world. The media present all of things condemned by Saint Paul as somehow normal and acceptable.
Deceived With Empty Words
There is no fuzziness in Saint Paul’s message. “Be sure of this,” he says, “that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of God” (Eph 5:6). The Apostle recognizes that other voices would deceive us with empty words. We know their arguments: “You need to be open to the world, aware of what is going on. You have to change with the times. You have to be tolerant of a variety of opinions.” Saint Paul says that because of these things “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph 5:6).
The Wrath of God
It is not fashionable to speak of the wrath of God. The wrath of God is not always experienced in thunderbolts and earthquakes. Sheldon Vanauken speaks of God’s “severe and tender mercy.” The wrath of God is the severe countenance of mercy. The wrath of God is a severe mercy in the slow descent into death that marks the progress of habitual sin, in spiritual sterility, in the nagging unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life that affects the soul seduced by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
There is no such thing as a happy sinner; and there is no such thing as a miserable saint. God’s merciful wrath is directed against the sins that threaten the salvation of His beloved children. God allow us to experience the effects of our own sins, of our own wrong choices, in order to turn our hearts back to Him in sorrow and penitence. One saved by the merciful wrath of God blesses it.
Constantly Seek His Face
The Apostle calls us to conversion and to separation from the world with its lies, it deceptions, and its vanities. He would have us walk as “children of the light” (Eph 5:8), with our hearts set on holiness. If your heart is set on holiness, your eyes will be set on the Face of Christ. Today’s Introit echoes in our hearts: “Constantly seek His Face” (Ps 104:4).
He who set the woman of today’s Gospel free from her infirmity is, at every moment, ready to deliver from the crookedness and distortion of sin those who trust in His mercy. Seeing us bent toward the earth, He calls us to Himself. He straightens us until, healed of our infirmity, we find ourselves gazing at Him face–to–face. Abide always in the vision of that Face and you will “walk as children of the light” (Eph 5:8).