The question concerning how to focus on holiness is a fundamental one to ask ourselves because, according to the Gospel and to the ordinary teaching of the Church, we are all called to become saints. Therefore it is of vital importance to define: « What constitutes a Saint ? » or « What is Holiness? » and, as a consequence, another question arises : « How does one become a Saint ? »
What is Holiness?
Going beyond general definitions, seeking to get closer to a description of its very essence, here are some definitions of Holiness that you might agree with: to be like God. To be totally transformed in God. To be fully united to God. To be one with God. To recapture the “image and likeness” of God that we have lost. To realise to the full the Seed of our Baptism. To have Jesus in us, fully living and acting. To reach the fullness of the Height of Jesus. To reach the fullness of Charity.
It is true that Baptism makes us Holy, it is true that Christians were called by St Paul “the Saints”. But in truth, all the above definitions or descriptions, if taken with a true examination of conscience, lead us to this implicit truth: Holiness is a goal, we are not totally there yet, we are on a continuous journey of spiritual growth.
The Journey toward Holiness
The notion of growth implies the existence of a process of transformation, sanctification, purification, divinisation. This process could be simply seen as a Journey. Jesus himself presents himself to us as the Way (“I am the Way” (John 14:6)), the Way to intimacy with the Father, to Union with the Father.
Having to undergo a “spiritual journey” means that we need to go through different stages. The notion of “stages of growth” is directly linked to the notion of the “journey of growth”.
Spiritual Doctrine of the Church
Now a question arises: do we have any teaching on these two subjects: 1- the Goal, 2- the stages of growth to achieve this Goal? Yes, we have: “The Spiritual Doctrine deposited by God in the Church”. This Spiritual Doctrine proceeds from the Gospel, develops throughout the ages and leads us back to the Gospel with a deeper understanding of it. According to “the Spiritual Doctrine of the Church”, we have a description of Holiness and indirectly it comes with the exposition of “The Stages of the Journey” that leads to Holiness.
Toward a Definition of Holiness
Holiness is seen as the completion of the meaning of Baptism, of being immersed to the full in the Divine Life of the Trinity and its operations. St John of the Cross, in his book “the Living Flame of Love”, describes Christian Death, as one more act of Love where the Holy Spirit extracts the soul-spirit from the body (i.e. the mortal life), like a Precious Stone or Pearl from its case, making it dive finally, freely and totally into God’s being. In defining Christian death, St John of the Cross is in fact also helping us to understand the concept of holiness. Holiness is the completion of the full journey of Growth, by reaching the fullness of Love: dying in Christ, is a final extra act of Love, moved by the Holy Spirit, toward our deepest Centre: God.
In doing so, St John of the Cross is giving us a new meaning for human life and time. Between the lines he is saying to us: the unit of counting “time” could be just the ticking of a clock, i.e. our bodily growth and aging, or, it could coincide, if lived on a daily basis in fullness by fulfilling every day’s measure of Growth, with the unit of our transformation.
Jesus teaches us that every day brings its own effort and therefore measure of Growth. Every day is then an opportunity for growth, a series of Providential events that will challenge us, in a neat and positive way, to become opportunities for Growth, helping us to progress step by step toward the fullness of God.
There is a possibility then to “waste time” or to “gain time”. I waste time when the door opens for an opportunity to be taken, for a challenge to be undergone and for transformation to result, by the Grace of God, and I don’t take it! Time is used well, to the fullness of its unit or measure (the day), when I am lead by the Grace of God, do God’s Will, and take with His Help one extra step of Growth and transformation in Him.
The result is: Holiness and a Life of Holiness (i.e. a life that leads to holiness).
Time (i.e. life) could be used well, and be considered “full time”, or it can remain “empty time” – just time!
Time could be an opportunity for Growth: a door that has been opened for the Grace of God to lead us toward Him… or just an opaque wall, not letting any light through, deceiving us with some false shiny lights.
Are we focused on Holiness? Are we focused on true time? On the true meaning of time? Do we find happiness in everyday life? Are we really growing? Are we using true tools of discernment in order to see through the opaque wall of life and time?