God wants us to be holy, to be saints, from eternity.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. Eph 1: 3ff
St Paul’s hymn of praise for God’s redemptive plan reveals his great love. The Apostle’s heart expands as he considers the divine call to holiness, and he makes clear his deep ambition to live closely united to Christ. Moved by the same Spirit, we too harbour in our heart sincere and operative desires for holiness. My children, St. Josemaria wrote, we who are children of God in Opus Dei should have just one exclusive concern, which is this: to become saints. We have to direct everything toward this goal, as St. Josemaria urged: Allow your soul to be consumed by desires – desires for loving, for forgetting yourself, for sanctity, for heaven. Don’t stop to wonder whether the time will come to see them accomplished, as some pseudo-adviser might suggest. Make them more fervent every day, for the Holy Spirit says that he is pleased with men of desires. Let your desires be operative and put them into practice in your daily tasks.
Personally, we are not better than others, but God’s free, disproportionate choice has made us apostles, bearers of the spirit of the Work. We are poor vessels containing a treasure of grace, light and truth. Our Lord will not go back on his word; he will not fail to add the increase to our efforts if we remain united to him, resolved to struggle for holiness despite our defects. St. Josemaría wrote: It seems an excellent idea to me that you should tell the Lord often about your great and ardent desire to be a saint, even though you see yourself filled with wretchedness… Tell him – precisely because of this!
St Paul also considers himself far from holy, but he breaks out in thanksgiving when he considers the redemptive riches brought by Christ: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us (Eph 1:7).
This mystery of divine grace continually comes to the aid of our weakness. If we are faithful, we are drawn into intimate union with Jesus amid our everyday activities, which perhaps humanly are not very glamorous. For, as St. Josemaria taught, holiness does not consist of doing more difficult things every day, but doing things with greater love every day. Our great desires for holiness have to be expressed by persevering in small things. This has to be your ambition: to persevere in the exact fulfilment of your present obligations, because that work – humble, monotonous, small – is prayer expressed in deeds. And it prepares us to receive the grace for that other work -great, broad and deep – about which we dream: to place Christ at the summit of all human activities (St. Josemaria).
Fostering hope, despite our defects.
God himself encourages our desires for love and dedication. Possumus! – we can! For we rely on his help, in spite of our frequent falls. He makes use of our mistakes to help us be humble.
What does it matter that we stumble on the way, if we find in the pain of our fall the energy to pick ourselves up and go on with renewed vigour? Don’t forget that the saint is not the person who never falls, but rather the one who never fails to get up again, humbly and with holy stubbornness. If the Book of Proverbs says that the just man falls seven times a day, who are we poor creatures, you and I, to be surprised or discouraged by our own weaknesses and falls? We will be able to keep going ahead, if only we seek our fortitude in him who says: Come to me, all who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest. Thank you, Lord, quia tu es, Deus, fortitudo mea,because you, and you alone, my God, have always been my strength, my refuge and my support.
Our hope of becoming saints rests on God’s desire to share his holiness with us. St. Josemaria teaches:
If you really want to progress in the interior life, be humble. Turn constantly and confidently to the help of our Lord and of his Blessed Mother, who is your mother too. No matter how much the still open wound of your latest fall may hurt, embrace the cross once more and, calmly, without getting upset, say: “With your help, Lord, I’ll fight, so as not to be held back. I’ll respond faithfully to your invitations. I won’t be afraid of steep climbs, nor of the apparent monotony of my daily work, nor of the thistles and loose stones on the way. I know that I am aided by your mercy and that, at the end of the road, I will find eternal happiness, full of joy and love for ever and ever.” Therefore, when with our heart enkindled we tell God “Yes”, that we want to be faithful and are ready for any sacrifice, we should add: Jesus, with your grace; Mother of mine, with your help. I’m so weak and prone to error, to small mistakes, that I see myself capable of committing big ones if you leave me. (St. Josemaria )
With renewed hope of advancing on the path to holiness, we place our resolutions in the hands of Jesus and his blessed Mother. As St. Josemaria wrote: Today in your prayer you confirmed your resolution to be a saint. I understand you when you make this more specific by adding, “I know I shall succeed, not because I am sure of myself, Jesus, but because I am sure of you.”
Excerpt from the Book of Meditations, vol. IV, (private collection)
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