No, God does not rest from us and neither does the devil. When I was a teenager I used to spend my summer in a town by the sea. One summer, my siblings and I brought friends to spend the month with us. On the first Sunday, the whole gang went to Mass. In the homily the priest said that we had work to do during the summer in order to be saints. “Do not forget that God is not on vacation and watches over you, with love, from heaven,” he proclaimed, and added that the devil does not take rest. He stalks us like a roaring lion, so we must be vigilant and avoid every occasion to sin. (1 Peter 5:8) I was marked by those words for the rest of my life. The work to achieve sanctity has no rest!
This summer, I began to think about what project God has for me, especially in this peculiar year. I reread Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Rejoice and Be Glad. There he says that the saint is the one who wonders what God wants of him/her here and now in this reality. Jesus calls us to be happy and holy. The Church gives us many examples of those who lived seeking the will of God. In fact, this week we will celebrate the feasts of St. Joan of Chantal, St. John Vianney, and St. Dominic. Through all the saints the call to be holy resounds in me. The saints have ties of love and communion with all of us. We also have the saints next door, who do not have the title of “saint,” but who we know well and who enrich our lives…like mom and dad, a son-daughter, a friend, a neighbor, the sick, and the elderly. These unnamed saints are the friends of Jesus who know they are sustained by His loving presence. They are, as Pope Francis reminds us, perfect examples of how holiness grows with small gestures made with much love.
In June 2014, the Pope remarked, the Beatitudes are “the Christian’s identity card.” If we want to be saints we have the portrait of the Saint among the Saints—Jesus—who lived the Beatitudes and showed us how to be merciful. With regard to the works of mercy Francis says, “We are called to obsess, wear ourselves out and even tire ourselves of practicing them.” Even when we have the best of intentions, sometimes we fight, we explode like a volcano, we forget that winning is actually losing; we let ourselves be carried away by anxiety, negativity and sadness, mediocrity and superficiality. We must wait, be patient, meek, and joyous and we must have a sense of humor. We must also be bold and have fervor like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Pope invites us to walk this path in communion with the saints who, in prayer, found Jesus. He also reminds us that we must fight to resist the devil’s attacks and temptations, for “the devil is not a myth, a representation or a figure, he is an angel created by God who dared to confront him and wants to destroy his works.” He wants to prevent we, who are that work of God, from announcing the Good News and distance us from God.
The saints are the masterpieces of God. The love of God shines through the saints in their gestures, words and lives, and also in their weaknesses and failings. Let us ask for the grace to strive for sanctity. Let us look at our neighbor as our way to heaven. Let us accept God’s will without complaints or anger, and in any sad or difficult situation, imagine that God is looking at us and say, “Glad, Lord, glad.” Let us work unceasingly in walking towards eternity.
The Lord sows in us feelings of holiness; let’s start working today even if we are on vacation!
Paula Gomez Victorica was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was a contemplative nun of the Order of Saint Benedict for 20 years. Since 2001, she has lived in Natick, Massachusetts.
Paula is a Certified Spiritual Director. She currently teaches Biblical Spirituality online at Boston College. She is also a Eucharistic Minister and collaborates in the pastoral and enrichment commissions of some the Metrowest parishes.