“The more we read about the lives of the saints the more we come to realize how ordinary they really were.”
God does not make things easy for His saints. By saints, I mean each and every one of us, for we are all called to sainthood, we are all called to holiness. We often think of saints as having perfectly holy and blissful lives, but they struggled with daily trials just as we do.
The Friends of God
There is a rather famous story about Saint Teresa of Avila. While traveling to establish convents in Burgos and Granada, Teresa and her companions encountered a tremendous rainstorm. Rivers had swollen to such a degree that the roads were no longer visible, only water as far as the eye could see. Teresa left their carriage in an attempt to guide them on foot but the current was so strong it threatened to sweep her away. But God sustained her and she cried out “Oh, my Lord! When wilt Thou cease from scattering obstacles in our path?”
“Do not complain, daughter,” the Divine Master answered, “for it is ever thus that I treat My friends.”
“Ah, Lord, it is also on that account that Thou hast so few!” was her reply.
The path to holiness is an ordinary path. It is full of twists and turns, potholes and mud. It has easy sections, difficult sections, boring sections and sections of incredible beauty. It is the normal everyday path by which we are called to holiness.
Even though we may wish that God spelled everything out for us, showing us the ups and downs and the end result, we know that is not how He works. He did not do that for Joseph and Mary, we should not expect Him to do that for us.
The Holy Family
Mary and Joseph had to trust God completely, even when they had to pack up their belongings on a moments notice, and move to a foreign land in order to protect the divine child from His enemies. They endured hardships and uncertainties and certainly many untold crises that tested their faith. But the holy Family is not holy because they never struggled, never had doubts, or never had problems. The Holy Family is holy because in spite of all those things, they kept their trust and faith in God.
Saint Matthew tells us “the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14) There was no room for useless arguing, whining or complaining. Joseph was probably not any happier about the situation than was Mary. But they faced a difficult situation together, as a team, with determination and humility. Humility, a self-forgetful love that puts the needs of the other above your own, and humility, the ability to put your wants and desires aside to cooperate to make the best of a bad situation, is an incredibly powerful combination that can ease the hardships we encounter.
Mary and Joseph did the best they could with what they were given and trusted God to take of the rest, and He did.
The more we read about the lives of the saints the more we come to realize how ordinary they really were. They faced many of the same problems and struggles that we do. They inherited the same fallen nature, were subject to the same temptations to sin, and received the same sacraments and teachings of the faith.
They also received the same call to holiness, the same call to follow Christ along the narrow path. It has been said that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to what happens.
The Trials of Sainthood
We were not promised lives free of suffering. In fact we were promised just the opposite. God does not spare us from suffering anymore than He spared His own Son. God works on us through the cross, through our suffering.
In our journey towards sainthood, God will always throw obstacles in our way, not because he is sadistic or mean-spirited, but because He wants us to realize our potential. God wants us to be fully the people, the saints, He knows we can be. And so gives us tests and trials. We serve Him by overcoming these tests and trials through the use of the gifts and talents He has given us. And we emerge from these challenges stronger than we were before, and more ready to tackle the tougher road that lies ahead. We gain Christian maturity and wisdom through trial.
Feast of the Holy Family
crossposted at www.DeaconLawrence.org
© Lawrence Klimecki
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit www.DeaconLawrence.org