All Christians are called to become saints. This includes you and me. But what does that entail? After all, we are all sinners so is becoming a saint even possible? Is the call to holiness and perfection beyond our reach? Find out in today’s message.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta believed that being holy was not something for the few or the privileged, but the responsibility of everyone. She was correct. The prime and fundamental vocation, assigned to us by God through Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit, is the vocation of holiness, and the perfection of charity. This is a lifelong process. It requires practice, dedication, and effort.
The essence of God is holiness, and as Christians, we are called to be like God. In 1 Peter 1:14-16 we find this, “Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I am holy.”
The model of holiness and perfection is Jesus Christ. As His followers, we are called to walk in His footsteps. But there is one thing of which we can be sure, we will certainly stumble and fall along the way.
Our journey towards perfection will inevitably require us to carry our own cross. There is no holiness without spiritual battle. The path towards sainthood inevitably includes times of embarrassment, discomfort, and shame brought on by our sinful nature. Spiritual progress requires self-discipline and the need for self-denial. Mortification gradually leads to peace and holiness. Romans 11:32 states, “For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.” Therefore, we must never lose hope. We must never think sainthood is unattainable.
It is true we are all sinners, but as Christians we are called to become new in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) a mystic, abbot and powerful preacher said, “A saint is not someone who never sins, but one who sins less and less frequently and gets up more and more quickly.” We are all called to become saints, and yet we all stumble and give into sin, therefore I want to focus on the subject of getting back up after we fall and beginning the journey again.
One person in particular who is known for his writings and teaching on the idea of new beginnings is Father Bruno Lanteri, a Catholic priest, who lived in northern Italy in the Eighteenth century (1759-1830). Perhaps he is most remembered for giving us the phrase “Nunc Coepi” pronounced (noonk cheh’-pee) which is Latin for “Now I begin.”
Nunc Coepi should give us moral encouragement and hope. As Christians, we should never stop trying to live a virtuous life. In this pursuit we come face to face with our own struggles, shortcomings, and sinfulness. We repeatedly give into sin. When we do, we simply need to tell God we are sorry and we need to begin again. Father Lanteri once said, “If I should fall a thousand times a day, a thousand times a day I will begin again, with new awareness of my weakness, promising God, with a peaceful heart, to amend my life. I will never think of God as if he were of our condition and grows weary of our wavering, weakness, and negligence.”
Father Lanteri gave this great advice for our pursuit of sainthood. “I urge you to begin each day, leaving the past to the mercy of the Lord, and the future to his Divine Providence. Do not let yourself be troubled by anything, not even by your own failings, taking care to overcome them immediately by an act of love of God.”
He also said, “Say with courage: Nunc Coepi – Now I Begin and walk always in the service of God. Do not keep stopping to look back, because he who looks back cannot hasten forward.” Jesus said that this way in Luke 9:62, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
So where does this leave us? It leaves us with this understanding. We are called to holiness, but in the words of Fr. Lanteri, “Holiness does not consist in never failing, but in rising immediately, recognizing our weakness and asking God’s forgiveness, and in doing this with peace of heart, without letting ourselves be troubled.”
God loves us and He never tires of forgiving our sins and weaknesses. He is always ready to shower us with His mercy. We must be on guard against discouragement. Jesus wants to wash away our sins. He wants us to get up quickly when we fall. He wants us to start fresh. He wants us to take the next step.
No matter where you are at this time in your life, even if things may appear hopeless, we only have to take the next step. Remember saints were sinners too. Saints have a past, and with Jesus, we all have a future. Jesus wants us to begin again right now! Therefore, let us courageously say, Nunc Coepi, now I begin! If we continually do this, we will certainly be on the road to sainthood.
Heavenly Father, no matter what the circumstances are in my life, I know I only need to take the next small step towards your Son in order to begin again on my path towards sainthood. Grant me the courage to always say Nunc Coepi any time I fall. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!
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