September 9, 2007
Holiness is not being perfect. Holiness is claiming our weakness in the presence of God’s strength. All too frequently you and I place ourselves in the center of the gospel. We imagine that our successes and our failures determine what our relationship with God will be. Therefore, on a day when we are feeling particularly generous or patient or just, we feel good; we feel holy. We feel that because of our successful our efforts our relationship with God works.
Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom explodes such an understanding. The Book of Wisdom says, “Who can discern what God wills? The reasoning of mortals is worthless. Our designs will often fail.” The Book of Wisdom is saying that we are not at the center of the gospel, God is. It is not our actions, but God’s action that make our relationship with God possible. We have a relationship to God because God has freely chosen us, chosen us as sons and daughters. God’s free choice took place prior to any of our successes and despite all of our failings. Are we called to do good and avoid evil? Yes we are. Are we called to work for justice and to love others with patience? Absolutely. But it is not these efforts on our part which establish our relationship with God. God does that by God’s free choice to make us sons and daughters. Therefore, we can be disciples not only when we are successful, but even when we fail. We can be holy not only when we feel God’s presence, but even in those times when we feel that God has abandoned us.
Recently the private diaries of Mother Teresa of Calcutta were made public. To the surprise of almost everyone who has read them, these diaries make clear that this woman, who many think was the greatest saint of the twentieth century, who many point to as the clearest example of what it means to be a follower of Christ, struggled with her faith on a daily basis. At times, her doubts about faith were so severe that she even questioned the existence of God. She revealed to a priest confidant, “Inside my soul there is only darkness. I feel myself totally cut off from God’s love.” Now this is not the robust faith that we imagine would be present in the heart of a saint. But Mother Teresa was a saint. She continued to do her work with the poor even though she doubted so profoundly and so regularly. She was a saint because Mother Teresa knew that it was not her faith or lack of faith that determined her relationship with Christ. She was willing to claim her weakness in the presence of God’s strength.