Easter Thoughts on
(A reflection on 1 Peter 1:14-16 and Matthew 5:48)
by: Deacon Paul Rooney
This lengthy reflection is an unfinished Easter meditation on “holiness.” It is unfinished, because it calls for your own reflection as well as mine, and it is a concept worthy of a long weekend Retreat, and a lifelong pursuit! We are all called to holiness. We are all commanded to be holy. For each one of us, holiness itself is unfinished business. It is not just an ideal; it is not out of our reach. And sometimes we overlook the simplest tools that the Lord gave us for our journey, such as ordinary (?) sacramentals.
that follows. He died for me! I can never get my arms completely around the concept of such an incomparable offering by our God of Love! But it does make me want to get my arms around the offering itself—or better, the offering Himself—Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. He has taken the cruelest instrument of torture known to mankind at that time, and transformed it into an instrument of grace! Because of his sacrifice, we are One cannot gaze upon the crucifix, with love and thanksgiving, without telling our Beloved that we desire to be transformed into His image of holiness.
Reflect with me. Holiness. Now, think about it: do you think you are holy? Do you think you are a saint? If you do not think so, why not? I am certain that you do not dare to approach Holy Communion with mortal sin on your soul; so all that remains to be dealt with as we approach the celebration of Eucharist are our venial sins and imperfections and undesirable tendencies. Yes, we still have imperfections; yes, our disordered passions need to be bridled, tamed and re-channeled when they arise; and yes, the tendencies to sin remain with us. As our Catechism teaches, there is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (CCC 2015). But even the holy men and women whom we call “saints” had these imperfections and tendencies and struggles. Yet we call them holy, do we not? (The word “saint” in Latin means “holy.”) As a “for instance,” sometime check out these “top ten saints for sinners” for encouragement. In any event, we must all beware of a false humility that comes from refusing to recognize our true self, made in God's image.
So perhaps we could continue our post-Easter journey of faith back to God, accompanied on our faith-walk by Jesus, by beginning to renew our understanding of sacramentals as a valued weapon in our spiritual battles. I suspect that a lot of Catholics have become absent-minded about the cleansing power available to us with the proper use of these special gifts. Let’s listen to Msgr. Matthew Mitas regarding several of these possibilities:
“Since the sacramentals, when properly used, have the power to remit venial sin, the sign of the cross, being a sacramental, when made by someone with a penitent heart and true contrition for his sins, can take away his venial sins. Since it's good practice to receive Holy Communion as worthily as possible, the Church provides us with many ways to be cleansed of venial sin even during Mass before Communion: the blessing with holy water upon entering church, the penitential rite, and the "Lord, I Am Not Worthy." And the faithful reception of Communion itself remits venial sin” (Msgr. Matthew Mitas, St. Louis Archdiocese; emphasis added).
Now, that gives us much more to reflect upon! If you are free from mortal sin, and are cleansed of venial sins at Mass (assuming you had the proper disposition at Mass: being attentive, participating fully, desiring this cleansing, and desiring to avoid even venial sins in the future), and have Jesus dwelling within you and walking with you on your journey: what makes you think you are not holy? We have been justified by faith (as St. Paul teaches), sanctified by baptism, cleansed by the Sacraments and sacramentals. Why do we resist accepting our call to holiness and the grace of holiness we have been given? Do we really understand that when the ritual of Mass concludes, we are sent forth to live out our holiness and thereby be a witness to Jesus Christ?
Let us not underestimate the power of the sacramentals, which were deliberately used by all the saints! Only the action of the Holy Spirit can bring about personal sanctity, through these Sacraments and sacramentals; and attaining it requires our full cooperation.
May God bless each one of us, as we renew our Easter journey in the power of His Resurrection, and renew our faith in Him!
Easter Joy and Blessings to all!
Deacon Paul Rooney