Be Not Afraid; To Become a Saint: A Reflection

I find myself getting old, far too old I think to become a saint. I don’t have enough time. Age has come upon me faster than I ever thought possible. Is that realization some measure of wisdom that comes with age or is it merely a recognition that what I want to accomplish in my life has increasingly fewer days left? A pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a major item on my bucket list, suddenly seemed a bit more urgent.

So here I am, walking down the steps to touch the cave wall that was the home of Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. An unbelievable emotion comes over me. I feel tears streaming down my face and a sense that there are steps in my journey of faith that may not yet be over. I have this overwhelming sense of awe in the love for God that our Blessed Mother Mary had. She was little more than a child, but she had the faith and courage of a lion. Her simple question to the Angel Gabriel was “How can this be, since I have no husband?” Though young, she would have known that if found with child she could have been stoned. Yet her faith and trust in our God was such that she was prepared to give her life. Her answer was simple and complete; “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” She didn’t see ahead to the raising of a Son, the boy that was to become the new Adam, the saviour of the world. She didn’t see to the horror and pain of watching that Son be crucified in a most horrible death. She didn’t see that she would be assumed into heaven and become the Blessed Mother of all of us. She didn’t see she would continue to appear to her children in locations throughout the world; Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Medjugorje and so many others. She didn’t see her future pain and her future glory, and that makes her yes to God so remarkable.
And what of Saint Paul? Approaching Damascus, he was struck by a brilliant light that blinded him. He was as helpless as a child and had to be led by the hand into the city. His original plan was to round up all the Christians and bound in chains they would be led back to be slain. God had other plans and Saint Paul spent the rest of his life discovering and living God’s answer to the one question he asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
God calls each of us for his purpose and we are instruments for his greater glory. Not often does it come with the appearance of an angel or a brilliant blinding light. Most often it comes in the quiet voice that calls us or the gentle nudge we often feel to act or respond to defend and evangelize our faith.
I have felt God nudge me a number of times in my life. Sometimes I answered yes, but more often I think I answered no, often by not acting. That response was usually due to my own insecurities or fear that I might not be liked or accepted if I took a position that was contrary to the current world view. Then there are all the times when I am so busy with my own life that I am not even paying attention. It seems I have a number of great excuses to turn a deaf ear to God’s nudge.
The first excuse I liked to use was; “I need clarity. How do I know this is really God’s will?” At one point I was so afraid of what I felt God calling me too that I asked for a specific sign. Instead of the specific sign, he showed me I was afraid to trust him to provide the graces I needed to follow his request of me. What was missing was the courage I needed to take the next step. Often, we feel we need to have it all figured out and if we cannot see the end we should not start. It is important to realize that the only thing we need to do is to take that first step. When I look back at the times I said no to God, the clarity I sought was there. I just needed to trust that he would also give me the graces I needed to follow the path he had set out.
The other great excuse is the fear of asking God the same question St. Paul asked; “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Even I know, that if I ask, I will probably get an answer. That is scary! What if He wants me to do something I don’t want to do? In my selfish ways I inadvertently convince myself that it is better to close myself off to God’s call than be pushed to do something that might cause anguish in my life and disturb the comfort zone I long to be in.
Touching these cave walls makes me realize that we are never too old to become a saint. Every soul belongs to God and all things are possible with God. All we have to do is to trust and have the courage to take that first step, only the first step. Each and every morning we must pray and ask; “Lord, what do you want me to do?” The path to sainthood is to pray for the graces and the courage to say yes to the answer.
Blessings to you all,
John Paul