For All We’ve Received
In the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, towering statues of the apostles line each wall. I took a moment before each one, marveling at the fact that each one of them gave their entire lives to Christ, loved Him, and died for others to know Him.
The Catechism reads, “The communion of saints is the Church” (CCC 946). That’s us. Our family, friends, the people we work with or the barista at the local coffee shop. Each one of us is invited into a deep friendship with God, invited to choose Heaven, and to strive for sainthood.
But how can we be counted among the saints?
In the first chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, verse 7 reiterates this call to holiness. But the best part was found in the footnotes of my Bible. Sitting in the back of a church in North Carolina, I squinted at the print, “Christians are called to holiness, that is, they are called to make their lives conform to the gift they have already received.”
We are called to step into the life and live in the gift we have already received. What have we received?
“God Himself is an external exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He has destined us to share in that exchange” (CCC 221).
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:1-3).
“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
“Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).
“Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer” (CCC 3).
We are called to be in union with God and called His children, not because of anything we’ve achieved, but because of who we are. But when we come face to face with our brokenness and sin, we can’t mend the relationship or achieve salvation on our own. God is love and as we are created to share in His love, He sent His Son, Jesus, who entered into our humanity, took on our sinfulness and brought us back into relationship with God. As adopted sons and daughters, we are called to be made new in Christ, especially through the sacraments and His Church. Once we have received Love Himself and are striving for Heaven, we can’t help but want to bring others with us.
This is not a gift to earn by our own strength. It is a gift given to us out of pure love.
Yet, even as we’ve received this gift, we are called to conform our lives to this gift. This begs the question, where is God in my life? Does He sit on the throne of my heart? Do I spend time with Him in prayer? Do I see the world through His eyes? Are my actions and responses directed to praise, reverence, and serve Him? Do I share Him with others in boldness? If the answer is no for particular aspects of our lives or not yet, it’s okay. In what ways can you make a change to give a small yes?
The saints model this for us in their total commitment to God, doing everything out of love for Him. St. Therese of Lisiuex speaks of this in Story of a Soul:
“I knew that to become a Saint, one had to suffer much, always aim at perfection and forget oneself. I saw that one could be a Saint in varying degrees, for we are free to respond to Our Lord’s invitation by doing much or little in our love for Him; to choose, that is, among the sacrifices He asks. Then, just as before, I cried: I choose everything, my God, I do not want to be a Saint by halves; I am not afraid to suffer for Your sake; I only fear doing my own will, so I give it to You and choose everything You will.”
We cannot be saints by halves. The definition of love is to will the good of the other. In receiving everything from Christ and conforming our lives to Him, how can we not share this life of abundance, redemptive suffering, and joy with others? How can we not will their highest good?
Just as it costs everything to follow Him, it’s going to cost everything to make Him known. On November 22, 1986, John Paul II addressed the youth of New Zealand, “Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice. Do not be afraid of the Cross of Christ. The Cross is the Tree of Life. It is the source of all joy and peace. It is the only way for Jesus to reach resurrection and triumph. It is the only way for us to share in His life, now and forever.”
We are all called to holiness. Just like the saints who stand in St. John Lateran, we are called to conform our lives to the Gospel, all for love of Christ. Let’s be saints!