Saturday, July 21, 2007

Holiness/The Royal Road of the Cross

Holiness (July 22)

1. In a radio message which he broadcast on the occasion of the Beatification of Pope Innocent XI, the Supreme Pontiff,
Pius XII, defined holiness as "the intimate awareness of loyal subjection to God, Who is adored and loved as the beginning, end, and norm. of every thought, affection, word, and action."

Let us meditate on this definition, which helps to shed sonic light on the true nature of sanctity.A holy man must always have a keen awareness of his own dependence upon God, his Creator, Redeemer and Sanctificr, and his hoped for reward and happiness in the next life. This awareness intist be vivid, for it should not be possible for it to be obscured by worldly distractions or obliterated by sensual allurements. It should be active, so that it may not be a merely theoretical acknowledgment of our dependence which leads to nothing more than lip-worship ; on the contrary, it must be capable of transforming our lives into an act of obedience and of love. Finally, it should be a faithful awareness, a complete and voluntary subjection to God which is the driving force behind all our words and actions, and which inspires us alike in joy and in sorrow, in victory and in defeat. If we wish to be perfect Christians, we must cultivate this kind of consciousness of our dependence upon God.

2. It is not true to say that holiness can be attained only by a few select souls, so that ordinary goodness is sufficient for people like ourselves who have so many other things to think about and to do. Such an attitude leads to tepidity, from which it is a short and easy step to sin itself. Anyway, there is no such thing as mediocre virtue, for if virtue is not aiming at perfection it is not genuine. A sincere Christian cannot be satisfied with mediocrity, for he is obliged to be holy, or at least to fight hard with the help of God's grace to become holy.

Even in the Old Testament we read: I, the Lord, am your God; and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy. (Lev. 11:19; 19:2) This exhortation is repeated by St. Peter in his first Epistle, (1 Peter 1:15-16) and in the Gospel Jesus Himself commands us to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt. 5:48) Holiness, then, is a goal towards which all sincere Christians must strive.

3. We need Saints to recall our wayward and corrupt society to the paths of truth, justice and charity. We should pray to God to send us Saints who will reform the world by living the Gospel and making it live for others. Above all, we should endeavour to become holy ourselves. To achieve this we do not have to put on sack-cloth, go into the desert, or shut ourselves up in a monastery. Each of us can become a saint in his own home and in whatever position God has allotted him. All we have to do is obey God's Will in everything, love Him above everything, love our neighbour as ourselves, avoid sin and aim at what is good. We can and should do all this with the help of God.

The Royal Road of the Cross (July 21)

1. The way of the Cross is the only road which leads to Heaven. Consequently, a man who refuses to take this road cannot reach Heaven. If there were another way, Jesus would have told us about it. Instead, He insisted that if anyone wished to go after Him, he would have to deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)

Our Lord did more than preach this way to us, for He gave us an example of the manner in which to follow it. Jesus could have redeemed us by a single act of His human-divine will, simply by offering Himself to the Eternal Father in expiation of our sins. But He chose to carry the weight of the Cross, to climb the Hill of Calvary, and to die in agony.

We must ascend our own Calvary if we wish to imitate and follow Jesus. Our divine Redeemer fulfilled perfectly in His Passion all the works of perfection which He had preached in the Gospel. Let the Passion of Christ be our rule of life. Let us be glad when we seem to be more like Him and sorrowful whenever we seem to be departing from the example which He set us.

Suffering should be a source of consolation for us, for it makes us more like Jesus as long as we endure it with resignation and with love.

2. We all have our own cross. When we reject it, we fashion one for ourselves by our defects and sins, which leave us dis­contented and restless, and draw God's punishment upon us.

It is useless to flee from the Cross, for it follows us everywhere. If we refuse to accept the cross which God has given us, we take upon ourselves one which is heavier than the first. Worldlings can bask for a moment in their pleasure; but it soon passes and is replaced by bitterness and sorrow. Their suffering is deeper than that of a good Christian who places his trust in God. There is only one way of making our cross easier to bear and that is to embrace it as Jesus did. We should love the Cross because it is suffering which shows us how to become like Jesus, to make reparation for our sins, and to co-operate by our own passion with the Passion of Christ. (Cf. 1 Col. 1:24)

3. A penitent once asked a holy priest for a hair-shirt. "I can't give you that," the priest replied, "but the best thing you can do is to offer to God the trials of your daily life." The penitent's reaction was to protest that he would find this too difficult.

As a matter of fact, it is very difficult. But it is useless for a man to wear a hair-shirt and to scourge himself if he is not prepared to put up with ordinary everyday hardships and to deny himself by carrying his cross with resignation and love. God has imposed certain penances on us all and these are necessary for us. To accept them is to set out on the royal road of the Cross which leads to Heaven.

It is true, however, that there are times when we meet with temptations which are exceptionally strong. It can be necessary on these occasions to impose extra penances on ourselves, for it is better to enter life maimed or lame, than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. (Cf. Mt. 18:8) Nevertheless, the first and most necessary penance is to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.