Desiring to be saints

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The following homily was given by Bishop Rhoades at the Rekindle the Fire Men’s Conference on February 22nd:

God said to Moses to tell the whole Israelite community: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.  Similarly, Jesus said to the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. God calls us to walk the path of holiness, the way of perfection.

The purpose of the Christian life is to live in Christ, to be holy. After his conversion to Catholicism as a young man, Thomas Merton was asked by a friend: “Tom, what do you want to be?” A bit puzzled by the question, Thomas Merton replied: “Well, I guess I want to be a good Catholic.” His friend fired back: “No, that’s not it. You should want to be a saint.” That strange answer changed Thomas Merton’s life. From that day on, he set out to walk the beautiful way of the Gospel, the path to perfection.

Perhaps you came to this conference with the hope of leaving here a better person, a better Catholic. That’s good. But I hope you leave here with the desire to be a saint, to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I think the path to holiness begins with putting God at the center of our life. How do we do this? The first thing is to realize deep in our hearts who we are, to experience deeply our true identity as beloved sons of the Father and as beloved brothers of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Then the love of God becomes the center of our life: not money, not fame, not power, not a political party, not our national identity, and not the culture we live in. Nothing should compete with the absolute center of our life, our faith in God. Father Robert Barron writes that to say, as we do in the Nicene creed: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty is “to perform a subversive act, because it challenges the claim to ultimacy of any other person or thing or institution.” The first step in the path of holiness is finding our center and that center is the divine love: God the Father who sent his Son to gather us into the Spirit! With God at the center of our life, we can face any storm in our life with the peace and security of our faith. For we have the deep awareness of Saint Paul who wrote: