What is the Opposite of Sin? Holiness!
(March 14 & 15)
Does being holy mean that we never sin?
In words of Pope Benedict XVI:
“Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness. Consequently, it is not the fact that we have never erred but our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints. And we can all learn this way of holiness” (Catechesis on the Apostles).
Holiness doesn’t mean that we’re perfect. Holiness doesn’t mean that we don’t sin. Holiness means possessing the habit of beginning again and again in our walk with the Lord, the habit of daily conversion. And what happens is that this habit of beginning again, this habit of asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness every day, eventually becomes stronger than our sinful habits. As we begin, again and again, the capacity of our hearts to receive God’s forgiveness and to live in friendship with Him expands. We begin to desire God more than we desire sin.
We can all learn this way of holiness. We can all learn to persevere and walk in an intimate friendship with God.
I could never possibly be a saint!
Yes, you can. In fact, that’s the goal of the Christian life and our Catholic Faith. As much as the saints ought to inspire us to be fully alive, I think that we can sometimes be intimidated by their lives. Perhaps we think: I could never be like that! When we read the lives of the saints, it seems impossible to achieve that level of virtue. Part of the reason is that some hagiographers paint quite a rosy picture of the saint’s life; they focus on the most heroic and miraculous stories of their lives. When we look at paintings or statues of saints, we focus on their halos but tend to forget that they were imperfect. We think that they spent all day on their knees in prayer, that they never had fun, and that they constantly embraced suffering–always joyfully!
But saints have the same weaknesses that we have. The difference is that they have an intimate friendship with God and a capacity to begin again that becomes the defining characteristic of their lives. Saints sin; saints make mistakes. But saints continue to grow in their love for the Lord, and this love eventually becomes the driving force in their lives; this love eventually becomes stronger than their sinful inclinations. The saint simply knows God’s love and God’s desire to forgive in a very deep way. Yes, the saint has an intimate friendship with the Lord.
How can I learn to be holy?
At the end of every day, we should examine our conscience and ask forgiveness for the sins of the day, the times that we’ve failed to respond to God’s grace. Doing this, asking God’s mercy is not meant to be a time of self-loathing for the sins we’ve committed. This daily review of our lives should be a reminder that the Lord loves us so much that He desires to forgive and renew us so that we can continue to walk in holiness each and every day. The point is not to focus on our sins but on the Lord’s mercy.
We can all learn to be holy, but first, we must have a proper understanding of holiness. Holiness is not perfection; holiness is an expanding capacity for conversion and a daily deepening of our friendship with God. Yes, we can all learn this way of holiness. How encouraging!
Putting Holiness into Practice
So how can we put this into practice? Today, in your prayer, when you see some areas that need improvement, don’t give in to feeling bad about yourself, self-loathing, or negativity; rather, rejoice that the Lord loves you so much that He is ready to forgive. Rejoice that the Lord does not love you because you’re perfect; He loves you because you’re His child, because you’re His friend!
Advice from the Saints in Heaven:
“We can, if we will, become a saint, for God will never refuse to help us to do so.” – St. John Vianney
“Let us become saints so that after having been together on earth, we may be together in Heaven.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
“After seven years in the religious life, I still am weak and imperfect. I always feels, however, the same bold confidence of becoming a great saint because I don’t count on my merits since I have none, but I trust in Him who is Virtue and Holiness.” – St. Therese of Lisieux
“The saints live not after the fashion of the world…the dignity of the saints is so great because they are not of this world, but ‘of the household of God.’” – St. Thomas Aquinas
“One should not wish to become a saint in four days, but step by step.” – St. Philip Neri
“Though you have recourse to many saints as your intercessors, go especially to St. Joseph, for he has great power with God.” – St. Teresa of Avila
“All the science of the Saints is included in these two things: To do, and to suffer. Whoever has done these two things best, has made himself most saintly.” – St. Francis de Sales
All Holy Men and Women of God, pray for us!