As I was reading through the second reading in preparation for mass this weekend, a question came into my mind? How do we as faithful Catholic’s live out what St. James is calling us to? Faith is a gift from God and in my own experience while believing what the Church teaches isn’t always easy, I find it many times easier to living out my faith or St. James put it a faith with works. I know at times in my life I would look at the example of others, those who spent hours in prayer every day, who joined a religious convent or monastery and lived extreme poverty, spent a life praying to God. Seeing those people, I would think to myself that’s a fantastic example, but I could never live that way.
In our Catholic faith, we do look to the example of the great saints. There are many saints whose spiritual lives serve as an example for the entire church, saints whose knowledge goes beyond what I ever could hope to gain in a lifetime. We can look at these saints and “that’s what being holy looks like? I will never become like them.” We can get discouraged, but I think of what Pope Francis said recently; “We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable . . . There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy.” He also tells us, “The important thing is that each believer discern his or her path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them.” All of us have unique gifts and roles to play in our Church; we don’t have to become another St. Ignatius, St. Thomas, we need to focus on becoming what God wants us to be. Discerning what holiness looks like for us can be difficult, and at the same time, we may think our lives our too hectic ever to hope to become holy and live out God’s plan for my life.
I think of the approach of one saint from our recent history can help us to live a holy life no matter our circumstances or how much we have on our schedule. St. Therese of Lisieux, you may have also heard her called, St. Therese of the child Jesus or the little flower. She spoke about the little way. Everything little task she faced, she did with love. Therese knew that she would fall short and not always fully love. However, God’s mercy and love would sustain her efforts.
What does this look like for us? How does the little way help us to have a faith that is backed up by our works? God calls all of us to a vocation of love! No matter if God calls us to be a priest, to raise a family, to do mission work or even become the first American Pope we all have a call from God to love. St. Therese said it beautifully “At last I have found my vocation. In the heart of the Church, I will be Love!” We have a simple answer to the question how we have both faith and works, simple, Love! Everything in our faith life begins and ends with loving God and loving our neighbor!
We all know too well that loving others is not easy. It’s very likely that we will not be loved back when we love others. It can be very difficult to love the people around us, especially if they may have hurt us or angered us in some way. On our own, we could never do this, but God gives us all of the graces we need to love one another. What Jesus tells us into today’s Gospel too can make it difficult to love God at times. Especially if we face heavy crosses in our life. In my own life I’ve faced my own crosses my own struggles and it can be easy to become angry with God and turn our backs on him. But I truly believe that if we love God with all of our hearts no matter how heavy those crosses get, no matter how many difficulties we face in our life, God will reward us more than we can ever imagine. St. Therese faced her own crosses and sufferings as well but she persevered and loved God and neighbor and now she is exalted as a saint and a doctor of the Church.
At times in my own life when I looked at St. James I would say to myself, oh I need to go to mass more, pray more rosaries, do good things for the poor, go work in the soup kitchen and so many other different Church related activites. These are all great things for us to do, but I know for many of us doing more Church related events can be difficult for us. We work every day and when we aren’t at work we may be taking care of our children, going to visit a sick family member, working around the house to keep it clean and the grass cut. What I love about St. Therese approach to life is that no matter how many things we have going on in our life we can love at every moment.
It can be easy for us to think we live out our faith in this Church building, at official events at the parish, but our faith is lived out every single day by the love that we show to others. The two greatest commandments from Jesus are to love God and our neighbor. If we live a life of love we will be living our God’s will for our life and we will live out what St. James challenges us to do, have a faith with works. What St. Therese said about her vocation is not only true for her, but it is true for all of us. I hope we can all say with St. Therese “At last I have found my vocation. In the heart of the Church, I will be Love!”