On This Rock I Will Build My Church

I have spent a great deal of time absorbing, praying about, and reflecting on this unprecedented time in the history of the Catholic Church. What is clear at this point is that there are two churches: the “official” Catholic Church fraught with heretical leaders and followers, and an underground church comprised of faithful people, upholding traditional Catholic values, who are astonished that they appear to be in the process of being pushed out of the fold. Many feel as though they are in a dwindling minority, watching their pope, bishops, and priests leading the faithful down the broad road of destruction.

During the lockdowns, we watched helplessly as the pope and bishops forced good priests to deny us the sacraments, declared war on faithful Catholics and priests, closed down churches and schools, disrupted faith formation, refused to visit the sick and dying, and recklessly pushed a dangerous political and medical agenda in association with corrupt governments and corporations. The pope turned into a politician and attacked the entire global church, driving countless faithful away. Though most Catholics were refused entry to church and could not receive the sacraments they so desperately needed, there were, nevertheless, mostly secret gatherings where the sacraments were administered and people gathered in prayer under threat of arrest. When churches reopened, we witnessed the gamut of liturgies, some of which were blessed with reverence, while others were grotesque shows run by politicians and money changers posing as priests.

Now we are witnessing Germany (and arguably the global church) on the brink of schism, the pope insanely endorsing homosexual behavior and idol worship while at the same time facilitating the complete destruction of the ministries of good bishops and priests who uphold the true faith of the church, and bishops who would indeed suspend John the Baptist himself from ministry for causing “division” in their congregations! In fact, they would suspend Jesus if they could, as He said “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-35).

The true separation of sheep and goats is on full display.

But let’s recall that the early church saw persecution and scattering, which drove the disciples out of their local region and across the world, thus facilitating Jesus’ plan to baptize people from all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The more people are driven away from the problematic, schismatic, heretical loci within the Catholic Church, the more they are driven toward the realization of God’s ultimate plan to unite the faithful in His eternal love. How that will ultimately be manifested remains to be seen, but it is clear that those calling themselves “Catholic” today are recognizing divergent meanings of that term, and Christ’s true Church will emerge from the wilderness. Let’s pray for consecrated leaders of the Apostolic Succession who are guided by the Holy Spirit into mercifully feeding Christ’s sheep, and for the faithful to never lose heart.

The Creative Fire and Joy of Love

God’s love, to which every human being is drawn, is a creative force originating in The One who is eternal and perfectly good. Love is the source of eternal life and contains actual power beyond all imagining.

To appreciate the power of love, let’s begin with something lesser and more tangible that mankind has come to understand: nuclear energy. When Einstein formulated his mass-energy conversion, it only took mankind a short while to grasp its potential for destruction in the form of nuclear weapons. With only a few kilograms of material, a bomb that can destroy an entire city can easily be constructed. This happens because each atom contains so much energy, that when released efficiently, the breaking of the bonds between the elementary particles releases tremendous destructive force.

Let’s keep this in mind as we consider the size of a human body. Imagine a human being whose mass is 60 kg. If Einstein’s calculations were to be applied to the energy contained in that human being, there would be enough destructive potential in that single person to destroy 30 cities! But consider the fact that it takes much more energy to create something than to destroy it. How much energy does it take for God to give life to that single body? This is just the energy for one person! God is currently keeping 7 billion of us alive! Every breath we take is a tangible miracle of God’s creative will sustaining our life.

We are alive because God’s love is so powerful that He has actually loved us into existence, and His love is required for every heartbeat and every breath in every person.

But let’s take a moment and imagine a hypothetical miracle: suppose God suddenly appeared on television and created a beautiful tree in the middle of a desert, and everyone in the world instantly knew that tree was specially created by God as a gift for mankind. What would happen? Naturally everyone in the world would reverence the tree, make every effort to visit the tree, write about the tree, maintain pictures of the tree, pray about the tree, etc. It would be absolutely unthinkable to ignore the tree, insult the tree or try to destroy it. It would be considered a visible sign of God’s miraculous and creative presence in the world. But that’s just one tree. What about the billions of people who are alive and the billions who preceded them? With what reverence would they be treated if everyone had the same clarity about their origins as with the hypothetical tree?

Understanding, then, the love with which we are created, and with our natural understanding of how wonderful it is to share love with other human beings, consider how wonderful and powerful God’s 1st commandment truly is! Using the image of the tree as a metaphor, fix your gaze on another human being, and allow God’s love to fill your heart with love for that person. Does that love sit still or travel? Of course you know the answer: your love both traverses and transcends space and time to reach that human being, and when that person becomes aware of it, both of you begin to wake up to how life-giving that love really is. Both of you, in that instant, tap into the infinitely good eternal origins you both share in God, and the happiness resulting from the interaction has no measure.

Let’s go further and adore the Eucharist, which is God Himself. What is that exchange like between you and God? What happens as you worthily consume that Eucharist? What is the measure of your happiness now? How much more powerfully does the Eucharist move from you to others as you look upon them with the love God has mercifully granted you? This is the holy marriage between Jesus and the Mystical Bride of Christ (us).

Let’s go still further and move into the realm of Holy Matrimony. A man and woman, living graceful and loving lives fed by the Holy Eucharist, become Eucharist to each other as they constantly draw upon the life-giving power of God as their source. They feed each other in this way in a way that eternally satisfies, and it is God’s creative energy that powers their procreation of children in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. What a miracle such a marriage is! Such joy, rooted in the eternity of Heaven, is within our grasp! This is what we have so much to be thankful for. Imagine such a perfect marriage and holy family: that is a manifestation of the beautiful and miraculous tree discussed earlier, and is a miraculous transformation of the tree to which Jesus lovingly ascended in Calvary.

The Quest for True Freedom

This article is longer than most of the others, and is divided into the following sections:

Introduction

According to Genesis, Eden is a place of such pure grace that it truly belongs to God’s Kingdom. Mankind began as truly good (Genesis 1:27-31), but because of the assault of the devil, man committed original sin, lost his grace and holiness, and was no longer able to remain there. Therefore God “expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). The battle between Satan and mankind had begun.

Eden is no longer available to fallen man, but Mary, the new Eve and new Israel, became the advocate for mankind. She was the first woman since the fall to be filled with grace and born without sin. It was through her cooperation with God that the salvation of mankind began and God revealed Himself in the form of His Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

Mankind’s Existential Choice

From the moment Jesus began His ministry, He called everyone to repentance and to faith, with which all human beings could defend themselves from demonic assaults and turn toward union with their Creator.

It has been from the moment when God’s only begotten Son entered time and space to be with us, people of all nations have faced a choice: to turn toward God or away from Him. To turn toward God means everything is offered to God and one walks toward eternal life. It is a shift away from one’s own desires and the turning of one’s spiritual gaze toward God. It is through this act of faith that one walks with the angels and discards the demonic illusions and snares that are ubiquitous on earth. Through the hope offered to us in the Canticle of Zechariah, God has ensured our freedom to worship Him without fear of enslavement by the devil. This is violently opposed by those enslaved by the devil, who label their sinful choices as “good” and as their exercise of “freedom”, thereby living out their enslavement by reversing the truth of what they believe and do.

What Virtue and Sin Really Are

Virtue and sin are therefore really choices humans make when using the powers God has granted them: “This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commandments. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command” (St. Basil).

The exercise of true freedom means cooperating with the graces infused in us by God and carrying our spiritual cross (see We are Called to be Saints). Sin is the complete opposite of this: it is the rejection of God’s graces and refusal to serve Him, with the implicit refusal to recognize the true life and freedom God offers out of His infinite love and mercy.

As a means of understanding this more deeply, let’s examine some of the most common choices people make today with God’s 5th and 6th commandments, in light of the faith and teaching tradition Jesus gave us. These commandments are actually quite closely related, because in both cases, one can be oriented to loving one’s neighbor and loving God, or destroying one’s neighbor and one’s relationship with God.

5th Commandment: “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). According to the Catechism, as well as Evangelium Vitae by Saint Pope John Paul II, this commandment directly addresses the intrinsically evil acts of murder, abortion, and euthanasia as opposed to respect for human life. In addition, it deals with the many important church teachings on respect for the dignity of persons. For example, while most people would immediately assert that they have not engaged in the intentional murder of another human being, a high proportion of them actually do have the blood of the innocent on their hands, since anyone who has, even in the most casual or indirect way, supported abortion or euthanasia, has mortal sin on their soul and, if a Catholic, may have already been automatically excommunicated.

6th Commandment:You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The wisdom of the Catechism, as well as the prophetic Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI, lead to the inevitable conclusion that the only valid sexual union derives from the Eucharist and is made both good and fruitful by the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, in which the married couple form a domestic church, leading each other and their children to holiness and eternal life. In contrast, all misuses of the human sexual faculties lead to spiritual death (including sex outside Holy Matrimony, contraceptives, homosexuality, pornography, and prostitution). The calls to chastity and to the reception of God’s gift of children are fully described in the Catechism, as are the horrendous offenses against chastity, the dignity of human beings, and the dignity of marriage. It is a commandment of such great importance that the faithful who exercise the necessary virtues for this commandment move toward union with God, and those who fail to do so turn away from their Lord.

The 6th Commandment leads directly to life as part of a virtuous cycle or directly to damnation as part of a death spiral, depending on how one responds to it. This is why it is so closely related to the 5th commandment. In this context it is of critical importance to dwell on Holy Matrimony. When Jesus performed His first miracle at Cana, he instituted the Sacrament of Marriage, and later referred to God’s intentions regarding marriage:

“Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery. His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Matthew 19:8-11).

Marriage derives its beginnings from the Creation, when God breathed life into man and established the first family. He created them in His likeness, as male and female, and again when He came to join Mary and Joseph to form The Holy Family. Later, as is clearly stated in the exchange above with His apostles, Holy Matrimony is an unbreakable lifetime bond that unites a man and woman as one flesh, returning them to the eternal source of life. As they are united, their source of life is the Eucharist, which, through their fidelity to each other, sustains them in God’s love and in their exchange of mutual love. The man and woman become Eucharist for each other, as they have become what they have received, and as a couple, are a sign of the domestic church being the Bride of Christ. Thus, the 6th Commandment is an indispensable part of the narrow way to the Author of Life.

Our Blessed Lady’s Role in Salvation

The origins of evil and the end days leading to salvation are described here:

Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born” (Revelation 12:4).

How prophetic this vision has turned out to be, given the abortion headlines in early 2019! The lines between good and evil have never been more clearly drawn. Demonic forces have influenced people to proclaim the most unthinkable abominations, including this very vision of infanticide as described in the Book of Revelation, as cause for celebration in the name of freedom. Never in human history has such a stark vision of the father of lies ever been revealed! It is no less than a direct and all out assault on the salvation of humanity. The devil’s strategy is to lead us to violate the 5th commandment by first violating the 6th commandment. His temptation is for us to objectify people, defile them and dehumanize them. This leads quickly to subjugation, violence, and murder.

Jesus has made it very clear how our Father regards the treatment of all who are vulnerable:

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ … And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ ” (Matthew 34-41).

When Mary, the Mother of God, visited Fatima, she presented a clear view of hell to the three children, and accompanied it with wisdom for mankind’s salvation:

“I am the Lady of the Rosary, I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and ask for pardon for their sins. They must not offend Our Lord any more, for He is already too grievously offended by the sins of men. People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day… Pray, pray a great deal and make many sacrifices, for many souls go to Hell because they have no one to make sacrifices and to pray for them.” Sister Lucia went on to explain, “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”

The Message of Our Lady of Fatima

Mary’s role is to lead us to Jesus, principally through the Rosary. Jesus exhorts us to recognize God’s Holy image in all people. In their role as a Holy Family, they guide us toward God’s dual commandment to love Him and our neighbor. Both Jesus and Mary call us to repentance, and to do so with love and tears.

Your Role in Salvation

Jesus never minimized the importance of fraternal correction. We all need someone to point out our shortcomings and defects, and we should listen with the deepest gratitude and humility to those calling us to holiness.

Spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and on retreat if you can, and finally, when you feel ready, begin to gently offer guidance to others. Pray for all sinners and love them as though they are your most cherished brothers and sisters, and recognize that judgment belongs solely to God, the Author of Life, whose Son went up on the cross as part of His plan of divine justice.

On the other hand, if someone whom you properly and lovingly challenge to lead a holy life accuses you of “judging” them, do not be discouraged, since that is the pathetic and often tragic defensive reaction of those rejecting God’s salvation.

Stand your ground, and fast and pray for them. Then you will be salt of the earth and a participant in our Lord’s infinitely precious work of salvation.

Enter into the Light of Faith

At my dear friend John’s request, I will share my personal faith journey with you in this Christmas reflection.

I was born into a Jewish family, but as many in the Jewish community would describe it, we were culturally Jewish but not religious. There was a bit of religious education, for which I am very grateful today, but once I reached the age of 13 I was essentially a person with no actual religious affiliation. I would occasionally call myself an agnostic when asked, but being mathematically oriented I wanted “proof” of God’s existence. I didn’t fully recognize it at the time, but the proof had been front and center in the form of my guardian angel, of whom I had been somehow aware from my very earliest memories. I used to say that “someone is watching over me”, and always felt the protection of a merciful and gentle divine force.

During those early years I spent a great deal of time in the library, mostly reading books on eastern philosophies and religions, and although I found many ideas appealing, especially those that led to peace and moral action, I never really felt “at home” with any particular belief system. A few friends tried to encourage me toward Christianity, but I had unwittingly adopted my extended family’s hostility toward Christianity and immediately dismissed such invitations.

The years went by…

I was a young software professional and had a girlfriend who sang sacred music with the Early Music Singers at Stanford. I loved music, and she invited me to come to various events, always in Catholic churches, at which they would sing extraordinarily beautiful Gregorian chant and works by such composers as Palestrina. I found the music interesting and beautiful, but didn’t notice God’s hand at work in my life. One day, during the Christmas season of 1987, she asked if I wanted to listen to them singing at a mass at a parish church in Palo Alto. I agreed to attend, and my life changed forever.

I sat in the back pew and tried to focus my attention on the choir during the mass, but felt myself inexplicably drawn to the Eucharist. There was something I could not explain going on, and when the parishioners began to receive the Body and Blood of Christ I wanted to walk up and join them! I had to hold myself back, and even in my own ignorance I was somehow aware that would be sacrilege. Mass ended, and the priest processed out of the church. Father Benignus was kind and elderly, and just as he passed my pew he paused just for a moment and looked at me. He had the most gentle, loving look in his eyes, and it brings tears to my own eyes to remember that moment. I was converted on the spot! I was overflowing with the love of God and could not even begin to fathom what had happened.

After mass, I told my girlfriend that I had wanted to consume the Eucharist, and she explained that only Catholics in a state of grace could do that. I said, “Then I want to become a Catholic!” She said, “Don’t do it. It will kill your parents.” I decided to think about that for a while, and ended up taking no action.

Nine years went by…

I reached a point in my life where I felt very unhappy. I was in a very dark place, and did not know that Christ had pursued me and was with me even there. I took no pleasure in anything, and even though I had the trappings of a “successful” life, I truly felt unfulfilled and believed I was a failure. I didn’t feel suicidal, but didn’t feel like I wanted to live anymore.

I had a friend named Kim who was a deeply spiritual person, and confided in her. She revealed that she was a Catholic, and gave me a great deal of comfort and counsel. When she understood how desperate my spiritual state was, she asked me to appeal to Our Blessed Lady for help, and said Mother Mary could bring legions of angels to my assistance. It was all very strange to me, but I decided to try. I sat alone in my room and prayed to God, and asked Mother Mary to help me. It was a cry from the heart that would lead to a new life in Christ.

Eventually, an answer I did not expect came in the form of a spontaneous idea. There was a woman with whom I had formed a wonderful friendship over the past 2 years. I had fallen in love with her but was afraid to act, fearing the loss of our friendship. However, I called her and asked her to dinner. We went to dinner, and professed our mutual love for each other. We were engaged that very evening!

She told me she was a Catholic and had hoped to marry in the Church. I said, “That’s all I needed to hear!” I had waited 9 long years to become a Catholic, and finally had a strong enough reason to face the consequences in my family. I went through the local RCIA program and was baptized during the Easter Vigil of 1997. We were married 2 months later, and are still on our honeymoon today, thanks to the blessing that Jesus gave us.

I can sum up this faith journey by recalling the second joyful mystery of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). I had truly experienced the birth of my Savior during that Christmas long ago, and the greatest gift a person can ever receive was conveyed through the eyes of that saintly priest. Because of that moment, and because Our Lady turned her eyes of mercy toward me, I offer this prayer daily:

Heart of my heart, spirit of my spirit. Strength of my heart.
My God, in You I live and move and have my being.
Let all who see my countenance feel touched by Your Holy Love.
I am all thine and all I have is thine, O dear Jesus, through Mary, Thy holy Mother.

When I think of Christmas gifts, it is the unmerited and unspeakably beautiful gift of faith I hope all can receive, and that we, in return, can offer to Christ, through the Holy Spirit, the loving response that brings us into union with the Father.

God’s Precious Gift of Life

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God is the Author of Life. Jesus, who is one in being with God our Father, has given us the means to accept His most precious gift of eternal life: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

In your prayer life you can discern three distinctly possible responses to God’s gift:

  • Acceptance
  • Turning Away
  • Destruction

Acceptance

Since God made us in His likeness and image and the Holy Spirit has breathed life into us, we have been presented, through His merciful offer of salvation, with His breathtaking invitation of eternal life in His glory (see A Glimpse into Eternal Life).

All of God’s commandments express His divine love for us and guide us into life with Him. Doing His will by obeying His commandments brings to fruition the great promise of Jesus, in which He offers to graft us unto Himself: “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). “I am the vine, you are the branches… If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (John 15:5-10). This is the key to eternal life, a gift so great and of such joyous dimension that it exceeds the boundaries of our minds, hearts and souls.

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The first four commandments focus us on the reality of having been adopted as God’s children. First and foremost we are oriented, through the 1st commandment, to worshiping God alone, which is a recognition of the eternal Truth and reality that every breath of life we have comes from God. This first commandment is the source of all other commandments, including veneration of God and love of one’s neighbor. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th commandments naturally flow from the 1st, impelling us to honor God, His creation, and His gift of life to us through our earthly parents. In this way we lovingly welcome our inheritance as His beloved children (see The Spirit of Adoption).

Turning Away from God

The first commandment is God’s call to life, but through our weaknesses, as we fall into sin, we turn away and instead worship false gods. This severs our connection with the blessings and spiritual life borne by God’s divine grace. The 6th, 7th, 9th, and 10th commandments are meant to help us recognize and reject these false gods, which appeal to our human senses in the forms of pleasure, power, honor and wealth.

Why do we fall from grace in such cases? The reason these sins are so evil is both profound and unavoidable: they cause us to turn in on ourselves, directing us away from the Author of Life and from all people. We create our own truth, our own reality, and our own world. We falsely make ourselves into God, with a selfish form of love that we often fail to recognize as an illusion. This sinfulness reflects the weakening of faith, hope and love. Should we fall into such sin, at that moment there is no more capacity within us to avail ourselves of God’s sanctifying grace, thereby rendering us incapable of truly loving Him or our neighbor. At this moment the world becomes a worse place, not a better one. It can ultimately cause the death of our spirit and have tragic and catastrophic effects on other children of God.

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According to the parable Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, our neighbor needs us more than we may ever know: they need us to love them perfectly in the way that God does. When we do this, we have the chance to see a better world and God’s blessings in ways we had never imagined possible. If we turn away from sin and toward God, then through the grace that flows through us, we are able to transmit His love to others, attracting them toward their eternal life with God.

Destruction

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We live in a culture of death, and uncountably many people have innocent blood on their hands. It is so prevalent that, without Christ’s ultimate act of salvation, the human race would be hopelessly lost.

In the most extreme cases, human beings go beyond weakness and utterly reject God’s Holy invitation toward His Life and Creation. In these cases they attempt to destroy God, others and themselves.

The 5th and 8th commandments both address such forms of destruction, which include the physical or spiritual murder of one’s neighbor. Failure to keep the other commandments can lead one by degrees to such evil.

Murder, which is explicitly forbidden by God’s 5th commandment and includes but is not limited to the abominations of abortion, suicide and euthanasia, is an action in which the perpetrator’s arrogance has reached such a level that they absurdly attempt to usurp the power of God (see Evangelium Vitae by Saint Pope John Paul II). The result is irreversible destruction, with enormous consequences that are cosmic in scale. The magnitude of the evil is beyond all measure, and the pain and destruction caused by even a single death can have effects lasting for generations and spanning large swaths of God’s creation.

Bearing false witness, anger and other forms of spiritual violence can have equally devastating effects that destroy reputations, ruin lives and cause psychological trauma. Such evil can and often does inspire others to commit physical violence. This is why Jesus said “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna” (Matthew 5:21).

Finally, leading or influencing others to lose or diminish their faith is a form of spiritual murder. So is failing to love others, as cutting them off from love is cutting them off from the life that God offers.

Return to Faith

Christ’s Divine Mercy is offered to all, no matter what state of sin they are in or how far they have fallen from God’s grace. The Sacrament of Reconciliation and interior conversion that the supplicant brings to the confessional are met with God’s gift of new life. It is a gift so great that it often moves even the most hardened sinner to tears.

God’s 1st commandment invites us into His eternal life and joy, and requires the gift of faith. If one lives out this commandment fully, it is possible to respond to God’s love with a saintly life that brings His joy to earth and to the angels in Heaven (see We are Called to be Saints).

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Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Therefore, as you lead your life in a state of grace, your heart, having been replaced by the Sacred Heart of Jesus (see Heart), allows you to shine His light, giving hope in a world beset by death and despair.

A Glimpse into Eternal Life

 

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We have all wondered what will happen after we die. It is an existential question of such great importance that our response to it determines how we conduct ourselves throughout this life. It is so great a mystery that no mortal can ever adequately describe it. St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, in which he presents the theological virtues and the nature of God, hints at the coming reality: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13).

Consider the difference between your mortal being and your future eternal being. Right now you perceive the world in 3 spatial dimensions and experience the passage of time. Your earthly body is born in the form of an infant, grows into a child, and develops into an adult. Your mortal body will eventually age and decay until you experience death. While in this state, your soul is drawn easily into the corruption and death of sin, and exists in a state of great danger and struggle.

Once you pass away from this world, there are two possibilities for your eternal being: the one in which you hope will be forever sinless, young and healthy, possess limitless knowledge, be blessed with unending joy, and be united with God in His loving nature; the other possibility is that your soul, having chosen eternal separation from God, the author of Life, would be in a state of eternal and indescribable agony as it would be forever devoid of all life, love and hope. These two possible ends, if we contemplate them seriously and deeply, can inspire our relationship with God while we are alive. For more information, see We are Called to be Saints.

The Nature of God

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Look at all the things around you: they are either man-made objects or a part of nature belonging to the created universe. All of these will eventually pass away. The earth will be consumed by the sun in a few billion years, the sun itself will die, and even the universe itself will decay and cease to support life. What could possibly be created that will last forever? Such an eternal substance, which cannot possibly even be part of the known universe, is something scientists have never discovered, can never prove exists, and is beyond all human imagination. And yet God exists forever, is the creator of the universe and all life, and promises to unite our bodies and souls with Him in Heaven if we respond properly to the salvation offered by His Son.

Contemplate for a moment the fact that love is not scientifically necessary for the physical universe to exist or to conform to the laws of physics. Yet God has given mankind the gift of love. Love, therefore, stands completely outside the created universe and is our connection with Heaven. Love is God’s eternal sign not only of His existence, but also of His covenant with us.

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Consider the connection between these two great truths: God is the source of all life, and God is love. Taken together, they imply that whatever makes eternal life with God possible must have its origins in His infinite love, which the Church teaches is the greatest of all things. God’s perfection is therefore rooted in love, and since we are called upon to be perfect in loving Him and our neighbor, we must conclude that such a commandment is His divine invitation to establish the basis for eternal life. Being able to love as God does is a divine gift from God carrying divine power, and is therefore God’s gift of eternal life itself.

The Holy Path of Love

The sacrament of Holy Matrimony, when lived according to His Holy will, orients us toward God’s invitation to enter into the sacrifice of perfect love for our spouse. For those who have been blessed with Holy Orders, their love of God and their spiritual children goes even deeper, impelling them toward their total surrender to Jesus. If we are to be united with Him in eternal life, we must be perfected in the way we love either through a saintly life here on earth (see We are Called to be Saints) or through the purification of Purgatory.

God’s plan is to draw us to Himself through His Son. Jesus said, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32). God created mankind, and through His Son, who came down from Heaven, created the way to eternal life. In giving us the Eucharist, Jesus declared that it is the source of life: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). This is the miracle of the eternal source of life breaking into our universe, which is why the Eucharist is so precious and important.

Our Citizenship in Heaven

We are children of God and bear His likeness: “When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God; he created them male and female. When they were created, he blessed them and named them humankind” (Genesis 5). But we are mortal beings created from dust whose bodies will return to dust. To be united forever with God in Heaven, we must be made again in a new way, and God has promised to do so: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (Corinthians 2:9).

In your contemplation, visualize your eternal life in Heaven, remembering these words: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself” (Philippians 3:20).

Inviting God to Enter the Heart

We constantly and restlessly seek the good, the true and the beautiful in our pursuit for the peace and happiness that can only come from God.

Scripture and Church teaching constantly remind us of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mary is our model, Jesus is our elder brother, and God, in presenting them to the human race, has promised to replace our heart and spirit with His own (see Heart). What a gift!

With such a great and unmerited blessing being offered to us by our Creator, what must our response be? It must be child-like, both in its simplicity and purity of intention: we must invite God in.

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You can start with a prayer to God, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament if possible, asking from the Heart that He send us the graces from the Holy Spirit necessary to prepare us for the fulfillment of this promise. This was part of what John the Baptist meant when he said “Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). John the Baptist exemplified how to do this when he said there was “one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie“. We must begin with the grace of Humility.

Humility is the key to being open to all of God’s graces, and thereby invites God to work within your heart. Wtih humility you possess the key to the peace promised by Jesus, because it is the foundation for the cross He asks us to carry. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). When you follow Jesus, you invite His perfect love to infuse and inspire your heart and soul.

But what is the cross Jesus asks us to carry? St. Frances de Sales describes a spiritual cross in Introduction to the Devout Life. The spiritual cross to which he refers is the consecration of our life to the love and service of God through:

  • Obedience: consecration of the heart
  • Chastity: consecration of the body
  • Poverty: consecration of all worldly goods

Humility is the foundation of Obedience, Chastity and Poverty, and through this beautiful joining with Christ you are enabled to respond to God’s loving invitation, opening the riches of Heaven in your Heart. This is also your entrance into the path of sainthood (see We are Called to be Saints).

You can renew this each day with the Lord’s Prayer. As you recite the phrase “Thy kingdom come“, you pray to God for His kingdom to grow in your heart, and are reminded of your role in this through the carrying of your spiritual cross. It is during this prayer that you can offer your daily burdens to God as part of your sacrifice.

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Carrying a cross is harder than any human being can endure on their own. To receive the supernatural strength and endurance necessary for this, invoke the intercessions of the angels and saints, and especially of Mary, your mother, all of whom will pray to God, out of love for you, that He send you the assistance you need through the Holy Spirit.

As challenging as it is to invite God to enter our hearts, it is an opportunity for divine growth beyond our mortal dimension. When we encounter challenges beyond our human limits, instead of being crushed in our sorrows, we can grow into the divine servant of God we are called to be.

In the Unity of the Holy Spirit

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The Holy Spirit is God. He unifies all things in God, and gathers together all that is good at every level. The Holy Spirit awakens faith, is the love of God poured out into our hearts, and is the source of all holiness.

The Narrow Gate to Heaven

The Holy Spirit was announced by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, the Mother of God, and overshadowed her. This is the great connection between Heaven and Earth, and it is because of the Holy Spirit that Mary was recognized by the archangel to be filled with grace. It is the Holy Spirit that binds Mary to her Son, and binds the human race to God, the Queen of Heaven, all the angels and saints, and to each other.

It was through Jesus Himself that the Holy Spirit was sent to us, and St. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, imparted this wisdom for the protection and salvation of mankind: “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6).

What is so important about this is that by being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, we are being prepared in holiness to be united with God, our Father. This is the reason Jesus came down from Heaven to be with us. The mission of the Holy Spirit is to unite us to Christ, who revealed the reason why He laid down His life and ascended to the cross: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32).

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This great act of salvation is God’s eternal offer to unite us all in His love and to save us from the forces of evil by paying the penalty for our sins. It is the Holy Spirit that overshadowed Mary at the Annunciation, that set tongues of fire on the Apostles at Pentecost, affords us the graces and gifts to do God’s will, enables us to gather in the Church Jesus established, and unifies all people on earth and all angels and saints in Heaven to act in the service of God. In short, the Holy Spirit brings all good together in love.

The Broad Road to Destruction

Jesus also spoke of Satan and hell. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). In saying this, Jesus made it clear exactly how the devil works: he divides and scatters. Jesus defeated Satan and paid the price for our sin.

Satan’s purpose is to separate us from God and destroy us. He does this through lies, manipulation, and division. He tricks people into thinking that their sinful actions are actually not so bad, and that hell doesn’t exist because a God who is good would never send anyone to hell. This keeps people comfortably unaware of their own sinfulness and deluded into thinking they are living lives of grace. They remain ignorant of the great danger they are confronting, making them easier for Satan to destroy.

Jesus makes it clear that we must choose of our own free will. We have 2 choices: either a life devoted to holiness, or a life that shuts out the graces of the Holy Spirit because the soul is steeped in sin, and ultimately leads to hell: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

The devil does the opposite of what God does by dividing people from each other, and even within a person, creating divisions in one’s thoughts and in one’s heart, leading to their destruction: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25).

The Virgin Mary herself, when she appeared at Fatima, conveyed to Sister Lucy the vision of “multitudes of souls falling into Hell – like snowflakes“.

With such a clear vision, anyone would cry to the Heavens for help!

Jesus’ Great Promise of Hope

A final warning from Jesus is also one that gives mankind hope: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31).

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Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to take care of us. Through the Holy Spirit we have the faith that cannot fail because it comes from God the Father. When we turn away from sin and receive Jesus’ absolution, we live in God’s grace and can once again serve Him, moving into ever increasing grace and holiness (as described in We are Called to be Saints). We can then be continually strengthened in the Holy Eucharist and Blood of Christ, remembering His words to us: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27).

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The Spirit of Adoption

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In teaching us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus opened Heaven for us in the spirit of adoption.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name;

The infinite power, love, and goodness of God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning from which we come and the source to which we are invited to return.

Thy Kingdom come,

God’s majestic kingdom is revealed as His infinite, merciful blessing, which He offers to us in its totality. And the only place it can be received is in our hearts. In this way we become His children.

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Cosmic Consequence of Adoption in Christ

We respond as we either bear or adopt children and their open hearts receive, with the mysteries of love, all who we are in spirit and truth. And if we are truly living as children of God, our children’s hearts are miraculously opened and receive the precious inheritance of God’s kingdom. Just as we are baptized, our children are likewise baptized: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:29).

Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

How we gaze at our children, with such purity of love in our hearts, is an infinitesimal hint of the love with which God gazes at us.

Give us this day our daily bread;

Eucharist, the bread of life, is borne of God’s salvific love for us. As we receive such love, there is only one thing we can do with it: give it to those whom we love, beginning with our children. “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry” (John 6:33-35). As God breathes life into us, so we, made in His image and likeness, with our loving response to God, inspire true life in our children.

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And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;

It is on the basis of the love one has received that the soul is ordered to then receive God’s virtues of faith, hope and love. Once this miraculous conversion has taken place, the soul repents of its earthly orientation and turns toward the infinite goodness of God, finally able to return the love to God that it has received. Now the person, whose heart has been replaced with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is able to look at others and forgive them from the heart, leading that person by the hand through the gates of salvation.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

It is the love of God, infused in our hearts, that is our strength and encouragement to resist temptation and permits God to deliver us from all evil. Then we can truly live joyfully and come home to the promises of Christ.

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We are Called to be Saints

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Note from Author: I am not a saint, but, as encouraged by Church teaching, hope to become one before the Lord takes me from this world. I do not claim to know everything it takes to be a saint: only God and the saints know that, and the complete answer is surely different for each person. However, we all have access to the divine wisdom given to us by Jesus Christ, developed in the Magisterium of the Church, and captured beautifully in the well-documented lives of the saints. The observations, thoughts and guidance in this article are based on such information as well as sound spiritual direction and the carefully discerned promptings of the Holy Spirit. The content here is meant only to introduce the path of sainthood that we are all called to follow. Each of us can start with the basics, which is an essential reason why the Church itself exists, and through proper spiritual direction, the promises of our Lord to us of salvation can come to fulfillment.

What would your life be like if it was fully centered on the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus? What if the cross was always before you? What if you allowed yourself always to be led by the hand of the Virgin Mary? What if you were always in communion with the angels and saints? What if you always stood before God as you weighed every thought and action in your life? “Ask and you shall receive“: such a blessed life is truly yours for the asking.

The fact is that every one of us is called to sainthood, as it is how we must respond to the 1st and greatest of all God’s commandments. Most saints have never been publicly recognized and would not care, but that does not matter in the least, especially as you consider the joy that awaits them in Heaven. The immediate reaction on the part of most people is that becoming a saint is not really possible for them, and they assume it requires too much sacrifice. The truth is that everyone can become a saint, as God does not wish for anyone to be lost (2 Peter 3:8).

The path to sainthood is centered on utter devotion to and worship of Jesus Christ. God gives Himself wholly to us, and the call to sainthood is that we also give ourselves with complete abandonment to Him in a holy union. As we transition from sinners to saints through our response to the graces conferred upon us by the Holy Spirit, we return to our Father like the Prodigal Son, ready and able to carry our spiritual cross.

There are a great many fruits produced along this narrow way: these include tenderness, love, kindness, humility and gentleness. The soul of a saint is infused with as much of the infinite wisdom, grace and power of Almighty God as it can sustain while in the vessel of a mortal body.

So how does one get started?

Fortunately, several centuries ago Saint Francis de Sales produced a beautiful work called Introduction to the Devout Life. It can be regarded as somewhat of a beginner’s manual and is just as relevant today as it was when it was originally written. There are many other wonderful works to inspire and guide you, including those of St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Liseaux, St. John of the Cross, Cardinal Newman, Thomas Merton, and Henry Nouwen, to name a few.

What can you do today to get started?

The first answer, given by Jesus Christ Himself, is profoundly simple: forgive everyone whom you feel has caused you offence, doing so from the heart, and pray for them. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44). According to Jesus, forgiveness allows you to love perfectly and to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Such wisdom from our Lord is unmistakably at the center of what it means to be a saint, because it is what He did when He came down from Heaven, and it is His forgiveness and love that has opened the gates of salvation for the human race. He did this with such great love that we cannot possibly fathom it: He thought specifically of you when He suffered and died on the cross, paying the price for your salvation. It is with such love that He calls you to be a saint, which is what we are called to remember as we present ourselves for Holy Communion and adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The good news is that you, as a faithful Catholic, have likely made good progress already! Consider how much of the following you already do, and you will be encouraged to walk in the path of perfection:

  • Pray frequently, if not constantly, with sincerity of heart and spirit. The Holy Rosary and Divine Office can be very helpful. Offer daily intentions along with your prayers.
  • Eliminate all mortal sin, starting with any habitual sins. Ask for divine assistance and any human help you need.
  • Every day prepare to not only avoid sin but to live virtuously and gracefully in the love of God, preparing specifically for all you plan to do that day and anticipating whom you are likely to meet and how you will treat them.
  • Keep your eyes at all times on Christ. To receive strength and grace, hide yourself in His wounds.
  • Discern carefully the will of God in your life. Be open to the graces sent to you by the Holy Spirit and respond immediately as you become aware of them. Be sure to respond to the extraordinary opportunities to serve God and make use of the precious gifts He is offering you. Keep your senses alert for God’s signs in the world and in your life. These are important for your discernment.
  • Remember each day that you cannot succeed alone, nor were you meant to: you need supernatural help. Ask the angels and archangels to protect you, guide you and intercede for you. Ask Mary, Queen of Angels for her intercessions, as Jesus will always do as she asks.
  • Remain close to the Word of God. 
  • Go to mass as often as circumstances permit (daily if possible). The more frequently you worthily consume the Eucharist, the more often you are renewed with the divine strength of Jesus.
  • Remain in the grace of God and go to confession regularly.
  • Find a good spiritual director and work regularly with that person.