“All we can hope for in this life is complete self-gift.” My spiritual director told me this two years ago, and I still think of it often. To give our lives away in service of “the other.” Why do we do this? Out of love for Jesus.
On October 5th, the Church celebrates the Feast day of Saint Faustina Kowalska. You probably recognize St. Faustina as the well-known and well-loved Divine Mercy Polish Saint. Pope Saint John Paul II brought St. Faustina to the attention of the Church by calling for an annual Divine Mercy Sunday.
We’re all called to holiness
I recently taught seventh and eighth graders about the “Universal Call to Holiness”– the reality that we’re all called to be saints. Holiness is not just for priests, religious people, or “boring people with no lives.”
Father Larry Richard explains what it means well: To be a Saint means to be radically in love with God, and to be radically in love with God is when God’s will and my will become one. Now, that’s definitely not boring! Saints like John Paul II, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (who smoked a pipe and climbed mountains!), and even Saint Faustina, prove that a life lived for God isn’t boring at all. Actually, it’s exciting, unpredictable, adventurous, peaceful (most of the time!), and what God intended for all of our lives to be!
By responding to God’s invitation to seek holiness–by doing God’s will–Faustina brought the very important message of mercy to the world! Because of her openness to our Lord, Jesus chose her as his instrument to share the message of Divine Mercy to the world. Faustina had many conversations with Jesus about his love and mercy. She wrote these conversations in her diary titled “Divine Mercy in My Soul” for the world to read, including these consoling lines from Jesus:
“I am love and Mercy Itself. There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted–it increases. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.” (No.1273, p. 459)
Because Faustina responded to Jesus’ invitation to give her life away, we have the opportunity to receive these messages of mercy that Jesus gave to Faustina and were meant for all of us.
Responding to God’s will for our lives
We are each called to give our lives away, to respond to God’s general will for all to be holy, as well as to respond to his particular will, which is the specific path he has chosen for each of us individually to do his will.
So, are you being invited to the married vocation? Are you called to the Priesthood? Is Jesus inviting you to Consecrated Virginity or Religious Life? No matter which way you are called, the path will eventually bring you to salvation.
When we come out of ourselves, we start living! When we stop focusing on our own desires and passions, we begin seeing that life life is truly about sacrificial love. God made us for this! He made us to receive and give true love.
How can we do this? Through big and small things.
- Doing the dishes when we don’t want to.
- Consoling a friend when they are suffering.
- Saying “I’m sorry” and “I love you”.
- Turning off the Xbox or TV in order to spend real time talking and praying with your spouse.
What are ways we don’t do this? Again, through big and small things.
- Ignoring the needs of others and putting yourself first. For example: Your spouse asks you to go to a gathering with him/her but you decide to “veg” instead of accompanying and supporting your spouse.
- Flirting with someone when you don’t have the intention to pursue them for a respectful relationship.
- Staying at home and binge drinking when you could be serving in the community or participating in community life at your parish church.
- Masturbating and consuming pornography.
- Shopping obsessively and not tithing or providing for the needs of your family, friends or the needy in your community.
What’s more appealing? Personally, I desire real love, which includes authentic, giving relationships and virtuous living. Although challenging, it’s so freeing being who you are called to be!
How to embrace holiness
We need to take steps to seek what I referred to earlier as the “Universal Call to Holiness.” Faustina and all the Saints took these steps as well. To live a life for God and others we need to:
- Kick the bad habits! That means saying goodbye to pornography. Don’t over spiritualize the issue of pornography and masturbation in your life. Ask God for the strength to overcome pornography and masturbation, pray, and receive the Sacraments. But take two more steps: sign up for Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and contact Integrity Restored about finding a therapist in your area to help you work through these struggles. There’s no shame in having someone guide you through this path to freedom.
- Put yourself in an environment where you can learn how to give. Join a parish near you, bring canned goods to the local shelter, donate to the Life Care Pregnancy Center in your area, volunteer to chaperone your child’s field trip, mow your parents’ lawn, make dinner for your boyfriend or girlfriend, or run or walk an awareness 5k race.
- Take steps to learn how to love and respect yourself. Have you ever heard we can’t give what we don’t have? Well, it’s true! In order to love and respect your vocation, spouse, and family well, we must love and respect ourselves first. Did you know you are unique and unrepeatable? It’s true! God created you one-of-a-kind. He made you with a unique purpose. You are God’s son or daughter. To learn more about the truth about love and the dignity of the human person with great insight of the relationship of man and woman, check our Edward Sri’s book “Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility”.
Recall again what Saint Faustina accomplished by being whom God called her to be. She received Jesus’ message of mercy to share it with the whole world! What a hopeless world it would be without Jesus’ mercy. Imagine what you can do for the world when you live for others and not for things that keep us from giving.