I heard a priest saying, “Why do some ladies spend so much going to so-called aesthetic doctors to be beautiful? “Why not go to God – or get close to God – and become the most beautiful version of themselves?” I am not sure if the priest had in mind the words of A.W. Tozer: “All things as they move toward God are beautiful, and they are ugly as they move away from Him.”
We celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. Today’s feast gives us an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a saint, to be holy. It emphasizes the universality of the call to holiness – or to sanctity, for that matter.
Why would you want to seek holiness? Moreover, what exactly does holiness mean? On a theoretical level, becoming holy sounds intriguing, inviting, mysterious, and admirable. However, do YOU want to become holy?
Too often, when faced with that question, the first thing that comes to mind is, “What will I have to give up?” Holiness is often seen in a negative way, meaning those who are holy are often seen as admirable people who have given up most of what is ‘fun’ in life. When you think of someone who is holy, who comes to mind first? A famous saint? A humble priest? A cloistered nun? A loving and long-suffering mother? A selfless father? Whoever comes to mind, they are often seen as good people we admire but have chosen not to imitate. We will not dare to model ourselves on. Why is that?
It is a big challenge for me to make the case that holiness is something that you should want to strive to attain. In fact, it is something that you deeply want to achieve, whether you realize it or not. A part of us knows what Tozer is saying: We become beautiful as we get close to God. And somehow that part of us desires to be beautiful. In fact, our whole being desires to be beautiful by being holy. No, achieving a life of holiness is not easy. It is not a life filled with “doing what you want because you want to do it.” Goals like that are very superficial and are never fully achievable.
We are all made with an innate desire for happiness. The problem is that most often we become confused as to how we achieve the happiness we desire. Some constantly dream of becoming rich. Sure, lots of money may relieve a certain amount of stress, make life easier in some ways and allow you to do many fun things. However, at the end of the day, neither money, power, fame, prestige, success nor anything else this world holds in high esteem will make you happier in the truest sense.
What is true happiness? Simply put, happiness is holiness. Holiness is the only way to complete fulfillment in life. Nothing else can come close to satisfying the deep longing you feel in your heart. As St. Augustine famously said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, oh Lord.”
Do you find that your heart is restless at times? Do you find that there is something missing in your life? What is it? What can fill that void that you feel? If you can accept the fact that holiness is what makes you happy, the next most important question is this: What does it mean to be holy? Is holiness simply a life of pious devotions, going to church all the time, staying out of trouble, being nice to everyone and being an all-around good person? Maybe it is to a certain extent, but that is a very simplistic definition of holiness. But it is not completely accurate.
John Paul Thomas, in his book The Path to Holiness, says, “True holiness, in its deepest form, requires a profound definition.” “It means you have humbly surrendered every part and aspect of your life to God, have given of yourself freely to others without reserve, have chosen to embrace all suffering in life with love, have chosen to unite it to the Cross of Christ, and have chosen to abandon everything this world offers as good, choosing instead the riches of Heaven.” Mother Teresa describes holiness in simpler terms: “Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things.” “It consists in accepting, with a smile, what Jesus sends us. It consists in accepting and following the will of God.”
Let us ask the intercession of All Saints that, like them, we may deeply desire holiness. Let us all strive to be beautiful by being holy.