Saints are formed when souls willingly sacrifice their own desires to embrace and do the will of God. This is, of course, much easier said than done.
Denial of self and abandonment to Divine Providence is a is a life-long process demanding that we constantly learn and recall how much God loves us and has sacrificed for us and our salvation. When the reality of this incredible mystery sinks evermore deeply into our understanding, the transforming effect on our life, and the lives of others, is immeasurable. Not only do we have the strength to do what seems impossible, but we have the desire for that which God desires in His plan for His people and building up His Kingdom.
Among the Beatitudes, there is one that strikes at the very core of the desire for holiness: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The people of Jesus’ time, many of whom were never far from death because of real starvation or dehydration, would have heard and understood these words of “hunger” and “thirst” substantially differently than we do today. In the hunger and thirst of the Beatitude, the Lord Jesus is not talking about a momentary craving that can be easily satiated by merely reaching for a piece of bread or a drink of water.
Rather, the Lord is referencing a hunger and thirst of unparalleled longing; a desire so profound that the person would reach for all the bread he can get his hands on and all the water available to him. In other words, the blessed one — the saintly person — is the one who desires ridiculously, unceasingly and wholeheartedly to be holy.
Ironically it is the non-possessor; the one “desiring like mad” to have his life be about God and the things of God, who experiences true blessedness on this Earth. It is through this process itself — the ups and downs, struggles and joys of daily life — that the saintly person is formed, fashioned and finds satisfaction. And it is in never giving up on what must be this constant pursuit that the sinner in reality, may live as a saint in hope — “for in hope we were saved” — so that this hope, not yet perfectly satisfied in this world, but waiting “with endurance,” may through the grace and mercy of God find its truest fulfillment in eternal glory.
The Church has never canonized a living person; or put another way, there is no perfection this side of Heaven; every single one of us is a work-in-progress in need of divine grace. But when one constantly strives to live out of the longing “to be perfect, just as [the] heavenly Father is perfect,” he understands more profoundly the meaning of these words in the First Letter of St. Peter: “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul.”
Do you want to be a saint? Long for it; live in hope for it! For the Lord Jesus says: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
—Father James Dodson is vocation director for the Diocese of Burlington.
—Originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.