To simply say: Yes.
Coming to God, seeking holiness is not an act of will beyond surrendering our own will pinned under our fallen nature to God. We cannot by our own strength lift the boulder that presses us into the mud. We can only cry out from the miry clay: Help! Rescue me, O Lord!
It is difficult not to think of holiness as an act, as something a person does, rather, holiness is a state of being. We can act in holiness or of our own accord. When we act of our own accord, no matter how “good” or “holy” the action may appear, no matter how helpful or ethically informed it is, the act in and of itself cannot be holy. Holy people act, but never is the action holy. Is it not so that one can perform an objectively good act with evil intention? For example, I save a man’s life only because he is an exceptional murderer and I am in want of his services? In saving his life am I being holy? No, because my motivation was self-serving. Now, I am forced to ask: Even if my self-serving motivation is to be holy or appear holy, am I not acting from the similar motivation of self service?
This is where I consider the parable of the two sons. A father says to his sons: Go to the field and work. The first son says, “No” and storms out, but stomping down the street turns aside and goes off to work. The second son says, “Yes father, I go.” then heads off to the pub or such. Who was doing the father’s will. Easy answer: the first son. But why? The first son clearly didn’t want to go to work. I think the fact that he did go to work did not come from his rational mind and reasoning through it he came to the conclusion it was better to obey. I think his response of “no” was really his desire. What drove him otherwise was responding to something within himself contrary to his will, not of his will and finding an obedience to this authority that was neither of his mind or his nature. This is holiness, this is responding to grace. When a person does not want to be holy; when a person wants to pursue his own agenda or pleasure; when a person has “better or more important things” to do than God’s will and yet, is unable to deny God even when everything within resists. This is the nature of holiness.
As for the second son, even had he gone to the field, we are left with the impression he was only acting from some sort of self interest even if it was to have the approval (or in today’s social media context “thumbs up–smiley–heart, heart, heart) and positive public opinion where his heart was somewhere else. For with God, regardless of where one’s mind is, the true “yes” can only come from the heart. Holiness is not a discipline. Holiness is the Holy Spirit living in one’s heart and all the she or he does flows from this core (rather “Coeur”) and is never an intellectual exercise or ethical analysis. Holy actions are performed because God asked her, not because she thought it was “the right thing to do.” This is why a true mountaineer when asked “why” can only simply and honestly answer: because it was there. The truth is the person doesn’t herself know why, she is simply compelled by her being that it is something she must do or she will die; even if (strangely) she die doing it. This is the nature of holiness and this is a gift of the Holy Spirit and not an act of individual will.
You may ask: But what then of devotion and discipline? Are they then not necessary? Are they just role playing? No. To go back to the mountain. Climbing a mountain requires effort, focus, decision making, experience of self and others (when available), and wisdom. I think (and I am no mountain climber in the “swinging from a string” sense) the first thing to know is the mountain exists as an independent object and will continue to be what it is regardless of how I think it should be or would like it to be. Should I fall, the mountains rocks will never be mattresses. So, focus, understanding, effort, and caution are all necessary. Note I said: caution not fear.
Catholics have an amazing resource–the Saints. These people have dared to climb the mountain of holiness and many have lost their life in the effort–hence martyr. Interesting, to lose one’s life in the climb toward holiness is the only way to reach the summit, because in dying on the mountain we are present in the Holy Spirit who will carry us to perfection in God. This is something unattainable by our own effort or will. It is for us to die on the mountain. We may be pushed from a cliff, fall, die of exposure, freeze to death, starve, etc. We may die alone feeling abandoned, or we may die in the company of fellow climbers, but if it is on this climb we choose to die, God will find us and bring our body home.
I have, myself, spent a long time at the base looking up. Saying: one day or when the time is right. One day and the right time never came, it was just that at some point I was no longer at the bottom but found myself a little ways up wondering: How did I get here? and rather then retreating found myself going a little further because–I don’t know why. A little further up, I found the Blessed Mother Mary or more accurately: She found me–She lives on the top and came down to lead me there. Now, I sometimes retreat, sit down in exhaustion, hesitate out of fear, but there She is to take my hand, to give me encouragement, and to tell me when I die on this journey, all will be well. It is this idea I feel so hard to accept and yet Her eyes compel me–I can do not other than to obey. Hence, even unwittingly, but most willingly, I have become slave to the Handmaiden of the Lord. I simply said and ever say: Yes.
In light hearted manner, I submit to you: When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom “Let It Be”, and in my hour of darkness She is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom “Let It Be”. . . and when the night is cloudy there is still a Light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, “Let It Be”. I wake to the sound of music Mother Mary comes to me, there will be no sorrow, “Let It Be”. . .and on that note–Fiat. Vale.
Let us Pray:
Our Lady Guadalupe, Mystical Rose, help all those who invoke thee in their necessity. Because thou art the Ever-Virgin Mary obtain for us from Thy Most-Holy Son: the Grace of keeping Faith, sweet Hope amidst the bitterness of life, fervent Charity, and the precious gift of Final Perseverance.
May Almighty God bless you; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
(C) Copyright 11 January 2018
Lyrics to “Let It Be” (C) Copyright 1969 Lennon-McCartney