Friday of the 12th week in Ordinary Time June 26th, 2020
In today’s Gospel, we heard the short conversation between Christ and the leper. The leper uses an interesting phrase when speaking with Jesus: “If you wish, you can make me clean.” “If you wish, you can make me clean.” In other words, the leper knows that Christ has the power to perform a miracle, and Christ also knows He has that power. What the leper wonders, though, is if Christ wants to do it. It’s one thing to know, and to have the power, but it’s a completely different thing to want.
The story is told that once the sister of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who was a nun, wrote him a letter, asking him what things she had to do in order to become a saint. The Angelic Doctor was already a well-known theologian, and probably his sister was hoping for something like a small treatise or book on perfection; in fact, we have books that are answers to questions like this. However, he didn’t reply with a treatise, or even a few pages. He didn’t even answer with a sentence or a phrase. He wrote what was only one word in Latin: “Will it!” What do I have to do in order to become a saint? Will it.
In this life, there is only one thing that all of us, without exception, no matter our vocation, must will. We all must want to be saints. We all know this; we know that we must seek to become holy, but, even more than just knowing it, we must will it.
This will to become holy was the first step in the lives of many saints. Some even said so directly. For example:
- Tommaso da Cori was a Franciscan who, after a term as master of novices, saw that his order was going to open a contemplative branch. In 1684 he asked for permission to enter it, and he knocked on the monastery door with his own letter of presentation; it was short and clear. It read: “I am friar Tommaso da Cori, and I am here to become a saint.” It’s precisely for this reason that we call him “Saint” Tommaso da Cori, canonized by Pope John Paul II.
- In May of 2015, Pope Francis canonized Saint María Cristina Brando (1856-1906), who founded the Sisters, Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. From early childhood on, she repeated: “I must be a saint; I want to be a saint.”
- In September of 2004, Pope John Paul II canonized the Catalan doctor and priest Pere Tarrés i Claret, apostle to the sick and the poorest of the poor, and in his homily he said: “He dedicated himself with generous surrender to the works of his ministry, remaining faithful to the promise he made on the vigil of his ordination: ‘Only one desire, Lord: [to be] a holy priest, cost whatever it might.’”
As we already mentioned, all of us know that we must become saints, but the question arises: how do I really want holiness, and really want to be a saint? What is it that I must do into for that information that I have, that knowledge, becomes action? There are three steps: to work in my mind, to work on my emotions, and to work by means of actions.
First I have to start with my mind. I have to be convinced of the truth that I must become a saint, and convinced, not in some general or universal way, but rather that the need for holiness is something personal, it something for me. It’s something that possible for me, no matter what I’ve done or what I’ve been through. It’s also something that’s good and appropriate for me (in order to win heaven), and it’s something that is really worthwhile and worth the effort. I can get this level of understanding by thinking about the life of Christ and about the lives of the saints, and then thinking about my life, my end, and how I can do that same thing that those saints did with the help of God’s grace. This is a work of my mind.
Afterward, I have to work on my emotions or passions. It’s hard to do something, and even harder to do it for a long time, if we’re not enthusiastic about it. This is a common occurrence for us. For example, it’s easy for us to spend two hours watching a football or basketball game, or talking with friends. It’s not so easy to spend two hours waiting in line at the bank, or waiting in traffic. We have to be enthusiastic about and desirous for holiness, convinced that it’s really worth the effort, thinking about the good effects of being a saint, the love that God has for us and that we should have for Him, etc.
Lastly, that enthusiasm needs to be converted into actions: in the measure that the will performs actions that it really chooses (that is, really “wants”), without stopping at mere whims or desires (“I’d like to” or “It’d be nice to”), the will becomes stronger and stronger, and in this way we fulfill what Saint Paul says: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. . . . Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
The French author Leon Bloy said: “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” If we really know the importance of being saints, we will also want to become saints, and then we’ll put those desires into action. In this we imitate Christ, who, as Saint Paul said: “The Son of God, Jesus Christ . . . was not ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ but ‘yes’ has been in him.”
If we really want to be saints, then let us say yes to Christ, not only through our word, but rather through our actions. Through the intercession of Mary, Queen of All Saints, let us ask for the grace to be saints, knowing that God will give us the grace we need in order to reach holiness.