It is understandable that most people struggle with the desire to be holy. And that struggle exists because of a misunderstanding of what holiness really is. The best way to understand holiness is to think of this basic fact: holiness is our relationship with God. In other words, we can’t make ourselves holy. Holiness is really a sharing in God’s holiness within us. We need to seek God’s will in all things. Obviously, none of us can do that perfectly. We are born wounded. God knows this. That’s why Jesus gave his life for us in love.
We must be open to God working within. And then we grow in holiness! Your next question might be, “But how do I know that I am growing in holiness?” The answer is this: most people won’t know. In fact, if someone is always looking for signs of holiness in himself or herself, he or she will be sorely disappointed. The fact is that saints never knew they were saints. They thought of themselves as great sinners. Read any autobiography of a saint and you will find that theme frequently in their writings.
Growth in holiness will not be felt. Holiness is a result of struggle, hard work, and dedication to what the Gospels ask us to do. Sometimes there is more blood, sweat, and tears than any wonderful, ecstatic experiences. This means that our journey through life is indeed a life of faith.
Grace of God
Just look around you and within the circumstances of your life. You will find the path to holiness, though at times it may feel more like a struggle.
What is essential to understand is that God is with us. The Spirit is always leading us, inspiring us, and enlightening us. Jesus, our Lord, is always leading us along the way. Husbands and wives, mothers and dads: they all find holiness in their vocation. I, as a Franciscan priest, find it within the circumstances of my calling. It may look as though I have some special graces that others do not. But that is not true. God gives each person the specific grace needed for his or her life.
In the end, that will be part of the revelation of eternity—a never-ending, mind-blowing understanding of our earthly journey with God revealing every graceful detail of our journey with him. It should be utterly wonderful.
Dear Friar Jeremy: What a wonderful gift Jesus gave us in the Holy Spirit! I know that God is working in all of us. Listen to God and his guidance. You will be amazed and thankful for his presence. I always am. Phil
Dear Friar Jeremy: Your E-spiration came at the perfect time. Sometimes I feel aimless, but then I’m reminded that the Holy Spirit is always with me. I have read your words over and over. They touched my heart. Jennifer
A: Dear Phil and Jennifer: Thanks for your personal testimonies to the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit in your lives! It is hard to find words to express the Spirit’s gifts. I like the text by Edwin Hatch:
“O breathe on me,
Thou breath of God,
Fill me with life anew;
That I may love what you would love
And do what you would do.”
May your Pentecost be joyful! —Friar Jeremy