Life is not all rosy. It has its ups and downs. It has its joy and hurts. Life, like a book, contains within its ranks all the possible and imaginable kinds of chapters. However, life remains a priceless gift because it comes from God, the Triune God, who is life and life in abundance.
Our life, the way it is, as we shape it and others shape it for us, remains limited and open and craving for that life which is everlasting. In other words, it looks for that book of life wherein we find our meaningfulness for eternity. This life we call eternal life has no end. It is that eternal joyous present which we are all craving for. How powerful is the text from the Book of Revelation which really touches my heart and gives me hope when I too, as a human being, in life get hurt and discouraged by comments or even others’ decisions. This is the text which comforts me when I grapple to understand what is going on: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4). As a matter of fact, holiness is the greatest comfort we can ever get in our challenging lives. That is why our search for it is so wise and most commendable.
In this respect, St Teresa of Calcutta, a great woman of unwavering faith and extraordinary love in action and not dissipated in fleeting words to impress others, is of enormous encouragement to us. Let us let her encourage us by her Spirit-filled inspiring words regarding holiness.
For her, holiness is a growth in faith. She said: Living a Christian life provides for the growth of faith. There have been many saints who have gone before to guide us, but I like the ones who are simple, like St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus…she did ordinary things with extraordinary love.
In her life Mother Teresa learned that faith and prayer are translated into loving actions for our neighbor in need. She teaches us: Faith in action is service. We try to be holy because we believe. In most modern rooms you see an electrical light that can be turned on with a switch. But, if there is no connection with the main powerhouse, then there can be no light. Faith and prayer is the connection with God, and when that is there, there is service. Connected with this point she used to affirm: Holiness is not in the feelings of in imagination, it is reality. One thing that helps me and will help you is this: works of love are works of holiness.
Holiness means being faithful to Christ amid persecution. The humble saint from Calucatta said: No one can take my faith from me. If, in order to spread the love of Christ among the poor and neglected, there were no alternative but to remain in that country, I would remain – but I would not renounce my faith. I am prepared to give up my life but never my faith.
Furthermore, real holiness is embedded in our daily concrete situations. She said: You have to be holy where you are – wherever God has put you. Adding to this, holiness is strengthened thanks to the virtue of kindness. St Teresa observes: Holiness grows fast where there is kindness. I have never heard of kind souls going astray. The world is lost for want of sweetness and kindness.
Mother Teresa reminds us that holiness kicks off with welcoming God’s plan for us with a genuine loving smile. She used to say: Holiness is not something extraordinary, not something for only a few brains, with intellectual powers that can reason, that can discuss, that can have long talks and read very wonderful books. Holiness is for every one of us as a simple duty – the acceptance of God with a smile, at all times, anywhere and everywhere.
When we speak about holiness we are speaking about our duty. St Teresa comments: Holiness is not the luxury of the few; it is a simple duty, for you and for me. We have been created for that. So let us be holy as Our Father in Heaven is holy.
Being holy means being faithfully consistent. Regarding this point she said: God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful. When facing God, results are not important. Faithfulness is what is important. Again, she added: Nothing can make me holy except the presence of God and to me the presence of God is fidelity to small things. Fidelity to small things will lead you to Christ. Infidelity to small things will lead you to sin.
Furthermore, to be holy also means letting Christ live in us. St Teresa explains this powerful reality when she said: We must become holy not because we want to feel holy, but because Christ must be able to live His life fully in us. In simple words, this is tantamount to letting God taking control of our lives and the actions that stem from them. Mother Teresa confessed: I must give myself completely to him. I must not attempt to control God’s actions. I must not desire a clear perception of my advance along the road, nor know precisely where I am on the way of holiness. I ask him to make a saint of me, yet I must leave to him the choice of that saintliness itself and still more the choice of the means that lead to it.
When discouragement and brokenheartedness strike, I am so comforted by what this great saint and my birthday companion has to teach me about holiness, the real life’s medicine and business!
St Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us to be holy as you are holy. Holiness is ours and my real personal business too. Amen.