Is holiness even possible these days?
Before we were married, my husband Curtis and I each had encountered our Lord through profound conversions and were both very committed to following God’s will in our married life. God invited us to live our faith in the public square through our college campus ministry, The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), and more intimately in our own home. Curtis and I have been married for over thirty years and have been blessed with nine children and five grandchildren. Two of our children have special needs: one son is autistic and one son has Down Syndrome. Trying to live our faith with joy hasn’t always been easy, but God continues to give us the grace we need each day to live in his will. I sometimes get discouraged and cry out to God asking if holiness is even possible. Then I’m reminded of Jesus’ Word, and I believe that he continues to speak these words to each of us today:
Photo of illustration of Grandfather & grandson praying before meal--by Jim Surkamp--Flickr.com image
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the wordwhich I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing… If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples." (John 15:1-5, 7 )
When wrestling with the question of real holiness lived out by ordinary people, Jesus always shows us the way. In this passage, he invites us to abide in him. If we abide in Jesus, then we will bear fruit in our lives and holiness will be achieved. Jesus is telling us that we need to remain close to him if we want to be holy in this life. It is really pretty simple. We need to know Jesus, encounter him in the Word, in prayer, and in the sacraments. I believe that people who have encountered Jesus personally, have made him the center of their lives, and are living a life of accompaniment with Jesus, will have a deep desire to share Jesus with everyone in their life.
Jesus is inviting each of us into a deeper encounter, asking us to live in intimate relationship with him so as to share this life-changing faith with others. As parents, our first responsibility is toward our children. When we accept this invitation and his grace, we follow St. Paul’s invitation, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2).