In the lives of many Saints, when those around them commented on their sanctity, the immediate and instinctive reaction from these good people was to counter the comment with a properly humble one acknowledging their sinfulness. It’s a bit of a dichotomy – the perception of sanctity and the acknowledgement of sinfulness, both at the same time. Which perception, then, is the true one?
Once we begin to come a little closer to the Lord, we start to see things from a different perspective – and this includes our perception of ourself. And so in this sense, both thsese good souls and those around them were correct; the people recognise sanctity, whilst the holy person sees not how far they have come, but how much farther they still have to go. Believing ourselves to be holy is a sure sign that we are not.
Placing ourselves before the Lord and taking a good look at ourselves, it is important that we recognise and acknowledge our faults, our failings and our sins; but it is crucial, too, that we balance this perception in the light of the Lord Who is Mercy itself. Yes, we are sinners – every single one of us. But yes – the Lord came precisely for sinners such as us.
I have read a lot recently on social media from good people who comment on their human faults and failings, and who wonder how it can be that despite loving the Lord – as I am sure they do – still, they fall time and time again. They often struggle to understand how this can be.
Looking again at the Saints the Church has placed before us for our edification and to be our exemplars in the Faith, we so often see that they, too, struggled greatly. Sanctity does not come easily – it is something we need to work very hard at, and we need to constantly co-operate with Divine Grace, submitting ourselves to it’s action within our souls and at the same time rejecting our self-love and self-will. Not once. Not only on one day. But time and time again, day in and day out. Sanctity is a slow and steady path we need to walk, not a place we suddenly find ourselves at.
The Lord can bring good out of any situation – even our sinfulness, which manifests on those occasions when our love of our own will trumps the love of the Divine Will. What good can the Lord bring from our sinfulness? By leaving us momentarily to ourselves, allowing us to choose self over Him, He will often give us the grace to see – usually a little further along the path – why our choice was not the best one for us, and what effects that choice brought about. It is often in this moment that we begin to re-evaluate our choices. In this way, the Lord respects our free will whilst also granting us every posible means to correct ourselves.
Further, when we begin to see more clearly the effects of the poor choices we have made, we also begin to realise how dependent on the Lord we really are. Choosing self, after all, is similar to saying that we know better than the Lord. That is generally wrong, not to mention highly presumptious of us – how could we, mere creatures, ever know better than the Infinite and Almighty Lord? And so, we gradually come to a sense of true humility – this being the clear recognition of what we are before God, whilst also knowing that despite what we are, He loves us with an infinite love.
And this, perhaps, is a sign that we are beginning to take a small step along that path of sanctity.