The Road to Sainthood is a Marathon
Last week, we had a return to the obligation of Sunday Mass in dioceses across the state of Minnesota. Some neighboring dioceses began earlier; others are still dispensed from obligatory attendance at Mass on Sunday.
That being said, I hope most people are not coming to Mass out of some sense of guilt, but are rather at Mass because they want to be there.
Of course with that, there is a little bit of a sacrifice. I imagine it would be easier to sit on a sofa and watch Mass online. But while this is a viable thing during a pandemic and for those who may be unable to attend Mass, as we all know there’s something missing online; not just at Mass but with anything really. A baseball game on TV is nothing like being at the stadium. Saying hi to friends is nice but being in their presence and sharing a meal is better. And sacramentally, there is of course the Eucharist that we receive at Mass that cannot be done virtually.
Mass is often called a sacrifice because it re-presents the sacrifice of Jesus on Good Friday; anticipating His death, He gives us, sacramentally, His Body and Blood, and then told us to repeat this until He comes again. This we do when we gather as a community at the Lord’s table; we share in His gift to us, but are also meant to grow closer together as a community and live out the faith, sacrificing for one another.
And so, coming back to Mass for some might be a little bit of a sacrifice. But, not to be negative, it is really just the tip of the iceberg when it come to faith. Our goal hopefully is sainthood. Doing this requires work.
In this week’s first reading, we hear of King Jeroboam of Bethel who is less than pleased with Amos the prophet. The king wants to make it more convenient for his people to worship there than having to take time to travel all the way to Jerusalem. Amos acts on the word of God, and warns that doing it the “easy way” the king would like will weaken the people’s focus and endanger their faith. In Amos’ day, Jerusalem is where the true Temple is, not in Bethel. “Going local” might be easier, but it distracted from proper worship.
Thankfully we do not have to go to Jerusalem or Rome to worship our Lord, for the Eucharist is of course celebrated all over the world. But sometimes we can want to take the easy route on our faith journey. The thing of it is, this won’t lead us to true spiritual growth.
As we try to grow in holiness, there’s a few things we can do to make sure our faith stays fresh and is always growing. Consider the following:
1) Make Mass a priority. Remember, Mass is where we encounter Jesus in a special way. That’s why it’s so important to go, for at Mass we receive food for the journey. Try to pay close attention to the readings and to clear your mind as you prepare to come up for Communion, and let God speak to you.
2) Make a regular examination of conscience. We have a conscience not to shame us, but to challenge us. Every day we make good choices, but sometimes make bad ones too. Know that God’s mercy is always there, and name your struggles, asking for His love and mercy.
3) Pray daily. With so much going on in our lives, it’s so important to find a few moments of silence for prayer. Use what works best for you; for some its silence; others meditation; others a rosary or reading the Bible. Some like to pray from the heart or with others; some like to pray alone. Getting time in for daily prayer helps us build our relationship with God.
4) Seek out people who help you on your faith journey. It’s so helpful to have people who we can turn to that we know will pray with us, give us advice, and listen to us. Seek these people out as they help strengthen our faith. For those who are married, consider praying together each night as a couple or as a family. Be open about what is in your heart and build one another up. Married or single, we all need people we can truly open our souls to. We also need to count on people to “give it to us straight” like Amos – people who will be prophets to us to help us stay on the right path.
5) Ask yourself “how can I go even further?” Just as a journey would take effort to go to Jerusalem, so too in life are we called to go further for one another. Sacrifice isn’t easy, but when we look at our lives maybe God is calling us to go further with what we do for our families, for our community, for our parish and for our friends and loved ones.
6) Know God journeys with you and loves you. On the journey we fall many times, but we are never alone. It’s important we do not get down on ourselves but reach out to God knowing He is with us step by step to forgive us and spur us on.
7) Never get complacent. Sometimes we can go on “cruise control” or think “I’ve made it.” Not so fast. We want to rejoice in our progress, but always remember we are being fine tuned. Years ago I couldn’t wait to be “older.” Then I got to be 18 and 21. Then I got my college degree. Then went to seminary and just wanted to make it to ordination. Then I became a pastor. The point is I got to things I hoped would happen in life. But I have not “made it.” I am far from perfect; I fail many times. I let people down. I get moody or have a bad day. I look back on something and say, “you could have done that better.” It’s called being a human, and why I go to confession, why I examine my conscience, and why I’m always trying to be better. I believe it was Tom Brady whom I once read after a Super Bowl win he was sitting in a whirlpool looking over plays on a tablet already thinking about the next season. Here’s a guy at the top of his game, but he knows that he’s still always working on that game. Hopefully we do with our salvation.
8) Engage Others by being a Prophet. As I shared last week, being a prophet isn’t easy, but it’s what we are called to do. Amos might prefer to still be working on trees, but God called him to do something else. We all share in that prophecy, so don’t fear talking about your faith and challenging people who may have lost their way. This isn’t “in your face” kind of evangelization, but the kind that includes things such as talking about the faith to kids, praying with the family, explaining what we believe and why to people, and demonstrating our faith through our way of life.
Sanctity, or becoming holy, is truly a life long thing but God is with us. Baptism was a first step, but that certainly didn’t end on the day of our Confirmation. So let’s heed the words of the wise prophet Amos and realize that grace is amazing, but it’s not cheap.
Have a blessed week, ~Fr. Paul
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