Called to Be Saints
You have a mission, a vocation in life. God made each one of you for a reason. He made each one of you to be a reflection of his own glory and his own holiness. God made you to be saints!
That means that God has great expectations for each one of you. He wants you to be a saint and he has something that he wants you to do in this world — something that no one else can do for him. Being a saint doesn’t separating ourselves from the world. It means just the opposite! Holiness means loving God and serving our neighbors right here and right now — in the middle of the world.
God needs saints in every area of life. He needs mothers and fathers who are saints. He needs saints in our parishes and schools; saints in the media and businesses; saints in politics and on Wall Street. One of my favorites saints — he’s not canonized yet — is Blessed Salvador Huerta Gutiérrez. He ran an auto repair shop in Guadalajara in the 1900s. In fact, he was so good at fixing cars, they used to call him Mago de Coches, the “Magician of Cars.”
Blessed Salvador was an ordinary guy — a good husband and father, he had twelve children; went to Mass every day, prayed with his family. And he tried to “sanctify” his work — he tried to do every little thing for the glory of God and the good of his neighbors.
That’s what saints do, that’s what makes them saints.
So what does God want you to be doing? What path does he want you to follow in your life? You have to ask God these questions, so that you can go out and make a difference in the world. So that you can go out and make this world what God wants it to be — a world of beauty and truth and holiness; a world of love and justice and compassion.
There are many ways to pray, and many different prayers we can say.
But the easiest way to begin to pray is to just talk to God — place yourself in his presence and start speaking to him. You don’t need a system or a method. Just tell him, as St. Paul did, “We do not know how to pray.” Ask Jesus, as his disciples always have, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Jesus taught us to talk to God with the words of the “Our Father.” But he also showed us, at every stage in his life, what it looks like to pray as a child of God. Still today, we can learn to pray by watching Jesus pray. And what we learn from watching Jesus is that prayer is a heart-to-heart conversation with our Father who loves us.
So talk to God — he is your Father. Talk to him in your mind, speak to him from your heart. God is totally interested in your life. In his love for you, he wants to hear about your joys and sorrows, the things that disturb you, people and situations that frustrate you. Nothing is too small to bring to God.
Ask your Father for everything you need; ask him to help your loved ones and others who need his help. Thank him for his love and bless him for his goodness to you. Adore him and praise him.
God is waiting for us to come to him in prayer. He wants us to desire him, to seek him, to ask him to open up his heart and reveal his plan for our life.
Reading Sacred Scripture
To follow Jesus means we have to walk in his footsteps. It means we have to really take him as the model and leader of our lives. We need to reflect on his life by reading from the Gospels every day — observing him closely, listening carefully to his words. We should be trying to live in imitation of Christ. Trying to be like Jesus in all our thoughts, words and actions.
If you want to be friends with Jesus, then you need to know what he’s like. And we find that out by reflecting on his life in the Gospels.
Reading the daily Gospel with prayer, our lives become a journey we are making with Jesus, a pilgrimage of the heart. Day in and day out, we are walking with him — listening to his teaching, learning from how he handles situations and deals with people.
Always begin your reading with prayer, placing yourself in God’s presence. Realize that God is everywhere and that he loves you. Ask his Holy Spirit to open your heart. Then begin to slowly read the Gospel text for the day. Read it once and then again and then again.
As you read, look for details. What’s going on? Who are the characters? Linger over words or phrases that stand out to you. Pay special attention to what Jesus is saying and doing.
But remember, you are not reading a story book. This is a meeting with the living God. Jesus lives in the sacred texts. God is speaking to you, personally. Ask God what is he trying to tell you in this passage of Scripture. Is there a promise here for you? A command? A caution? How does this text apply to your life situation right now?
Let the Word of God challenge you. If you are having trouble understanding what you are reading, ask the Spirit for help. Jesus told us: if we ask. we will receive and if we knock, closed doors will open. So ask God especially to help you understand scenes and teachings that don’t fit your assumptions and expectations, your prejudices.
The more we pray with the Gospels, the more we have “the mind of Christ” — his thoughts and feelings; seeing reality through his eyes. The more we pray, the more we feel Christ’s call to change the world — to shape society and history according to God’s loving plan.
The Church lives from the Eucharist, which is the living sign of Christ’s love for us, making present his redeeming sacrifice on the Cross. The Eucharist is Christ in his love, giving himself to us as our food and drink, to strengthen us for our journey of faith and our mission of evangelization.
What happens in the Mass? We remember and renew Christ’s saving sacrifice. We thank God for our salvation by offering our lives to him, in union with Christ’s sacrifice. We make our lives a “Eucharist,” a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, just as Christ made himself a living sacrifice on the cross.
The Eucharist is a mystery to be lived. And we are called to be “Eucharistic" people. We are called to live from the graces we receive in the Eucharist and to make our lives something beautiful that we offer to God.
The love that we receive in the Eucharist is the love that we are called to share with the world. Day by day we are called to grow in holiness and to become an offering more and more acceptable to God. We are called to make our lives a kind of prayer — doing everything for God’s glory and for the good of our brothers and sisters.
We are called to live our lives beautifully. To present our lives as living sacrifices to God. To offer everything we do as a spiritual sacrifice of praise.
We are called to work with the graces we receive in the Eucharist and to make our lives something beautiful that we offer to God. We are called to make our lives a kind of prayer — a gift that we offer to God in love for the salvation of our brothers and sisters.
We are being called in every Mass to truly lift up our hearts — offering our lives in service to one another, living and doing everything for the glory of God.
We need to remember that we are all sinners, some of us worse than others. But all of us stand in need of God’s mercy. This is the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is God’s school of love, where we experience his mercy, which is the mercy he wants us to extend to others.
Regular Confession keeps us honest with God. The heart of the Gospel is the revelation of the tender mercy of our God. Our Father’s mercy and forgiveness comes to us in this Sacrament. So try to go to Confession often. Examine your consciences every day. These are the secrets to growing in the Christian life and knowing true friendship with Jesus Christ. And there is no greater joy and liberation than to know that our sins have been forgiven. That's what we all long for — wholeness, union, friendship with God. That's true happiness. And confession gives us that.
What I don't think most people fully realize is the power — the grace, peace and strength — that comes to us in the sacrament. Penance is a remedy, yes. It heals us of our sins; it makes it possible for us to live again in God's grace. But it does more than that. In the sacrament, God strengthens us. He gives us the spiritual strength we need to live a new life -- to love more deeply, and to overcome our selfishness and weakness.
The beautiful truth is that the more we go to confession, the more we grow in holiness. We experience real conversion every day. We are less absorbed in material things. We find we have the grace to see the world differently and to think and act differently. Through regular confession, you grow in self-knowledge and in your love and knowledge of Christ.
Works of Mercy
The Church is called to be a community of love, in the service of love.
That’s our responsibility as Christians. Every day, we should be working to make the world a little bit more like the way God intended it to be. So that everyone receives what he or she needs to lead a dignified and holy life. That every one in our world has what he or she deserves as a child of God, created in God’s image.
Mercy is at the heart of the Gospel and mercy must be the way of life for every Christian. Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus teaches that the mercy we seek from God must be the mercy we show to others. Through our works of mercy, Jesus is calling us to open our eyes to see others as brothers and sisters made in the image of God. He is calling us to open our hearts and our hands to welcome and serve people.
So the corporal works of mercy gives us a kind of “game plan” for our Christian lives — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead.
We are not social workers or humanitarians in the Church. Everything we do, we do because the love of Jesus Christ impels us. St. Paul said that many centuries ago and it is still true.
Jesus told us that we will be judged by our love. And he said that we prove our love for God by serving him in the least of our brothers and sisters. And Jesus was specific about “who” we need to love and serve. The hungry, the thirsty and the naked. The stranger, the immigrant. The prisoner.
Jesus seems deliberately to have specified the kinds of people who are hardest for us to love — the poor who seek some share of our time and possessions. The immigrant who asks to be welcomed into our country and our way of life. The prisoner who has broken our laws. These are “hard cases.” But the demands of Christian love are not easy. One of the saints said, We love God as much as we love the one we love the least.
Mercy is a personal duty for each one of us. But mercy is also a political and social responsibility.
Mercy makes us brothers and sisters to everyone and neighbors to those in need. The works of mercy are the works of peace and the works of justice — for the poor, the sick, the suffering and the vulnerable, and for all those driven to the margins of society. The merciful one seeks to free others from their misery — whether their misery is caused by cruelty, misfortune, social injustice, or their own sin and weakness.
The works of mercy call us to create a culture of encounter and communion. To resist and reject all the tendencies in our society to marginalize, divide and exclude. The works of mercy lead us to walk with others and to work for human dignity and justice — so that no one in our society is unwanted, so that no life is ignored or discarded.