Afraid of Holiness?
Why not be a saint?
We have a courage deficit today. Well, I at least have one!
Granted, a lack of courage is nothing new. The most repeated command in Scripture is “Be not afraid.” Fear is what typically blocks good people from carrying out God’s will.
In Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis writes, “Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self.”
Afraid of holiness? We do not normally think of “holiness” as a common fear, but I think Pope Francis is on to something.
We worry about trying something new when our efforts could completely flop. We fear that attempting to do something great will open us up to criticism. We are also aware of our less-than-perfect past. Who am I to try to be holy?
In The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton recounts how one day he was walking with a friend who asked him, “Tom, what do you want out of life?” Merton said, “Well, I suppose I want to be a good Catholic.” His friend replied, “No, no, that’s not enough. You should want to be a saint.”
That comment led Merton to take his faith more seriously. He later became a monk and one of the greatest spiritual writers of the twentieth century.
Who are you to be a saint? Rather, who are you not to be? Do not be afraid of holiness.