One friend of mine is concerned about his future because it doesn’t look as if he’ll have enough money to last his retirement. Another is going through a difficult discernment on whether to switch jobs. Finally, another has been having a difficult time with the vaccine card and its future implications about controlling society, and he’s wondering how to contribute to the discussion. He doesn’t want this difficulty in his life. Maybe God’s allowing these difficulties because my friends are made for greatness; He’s forming them through these sufferings to become saints.
If I may make a suggestion: Perhaps the reason why you’re going through a certain suffering is because God wants to make you a saint, another Christ. Likewise, perhaps the reason your family members are going through difficulties is because God is calling them to greatness.
When I visited the Gr. 4 classroom last month, one student was blown away when I said, “You’re supposed to become St. Hayden of Vancouver.” And that means all his struggles are designed so that he can choose to act like Christ!
In the Gospel, it says that “a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Mk 10:17). St. John Paul II says this man represents everyone who approaches Jesus and seeks to know the full meaning of life; he wants to know the moral good which must be done (Veritatis Splendor, 7-8). He’s desiring greatness. And JPII points out that the man probably already knew the answer given in the Law, but was attracted by Jesus’ personality and realizes there’s more.
Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, but St. Augustine says that keeping the commandments is “only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom” (Veritatis Splendor, 13). The man responds that he’s kept the commandments since his youth! Yet, there is more. Jesus says to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give your money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mk 10:21). Jesus is telling him that to attain sainthood, he has to let go of his current riches.
What are our riches? In the case of my friend who’s worried about retirement, one of his riches is his over-reliance on himself. Yes, God wants him to prepare for his retirement, invest money well, and even change the way he’s spending money, but God also wants this individual to trust in Him more. Saints live with a profound awareness of the Father’s goodness, and right now my friend’s faith must grow.
For my friend who’s struggling about whether to switch jobs, one of her riches is an excessive focus on finding a job that makes her happy. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ you ask. God didn’t just create her to find a job that makes her happy, but created her to have an eternal impact on people’s souls. She’s already spiritually grown so much. Now, she’s got to follow Jesus wherever He leads her, even if there’s pain.
As for my friend who’s wondering how to contribute to public debate on government control, he just wants to live a simple life with his family—that’s his riches. I understand that, because I, too, don’t like to engage in the culture war: I don’t enjoy giving homilies on transgenderism, for example; I’d rather focus on other things. But God didn’t make me for comfort. He made me to help you become saints. And my friend is made to stand up against coercive mandates of vaccinations. The most authoritative guidance from the Church, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, teaches that vaccinations must be voluntary. Let me be clear that I’m not against vaccinations. It’s just that they can’t be forced. So my friend will have to do his part to speak up.
Perhaps the most beautiful line in today’s Gospel is this: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said…” This is the only recorded time that Jesus looked at an individual with love. What does this mean? It must mean Jesus was smiling at him, because, whenever we think about someone we love, we smile. For example, when you think of me, you get all these good feelings inside and feel bubbly. In the same way, when Jesus thinks of us, He feels good on the inside and smiles! When He allows us these sufferings, it’s not to hurt us!
And here’s a beautiful spiritual truth: Jesus asks for everything, but doesn’t necessarily take everything (Fr. Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, 39). The devil’s oldest trick in the book is that, if we follow God, we’re going to lose something we love. If I follow God, then I’ll have to give up my money, change my career, or break up with my boyfriend.
God asks for everything, but doesn’t necessarily take it. He wants us to be ready to let go of things for something better, but He won’t hurt us. He’s very gentle with us. When He does take some things away, it’s because He knows we can handle it.
All people suffer—that’s part of life. If we choose to follow Christ, we’ll suffer in order to become like Him. But, if we don’t follow Christ, we’ll still suffer, and it’ll be a worse suffering because it’ll be without His love and eternal meaning.
On Nov. 21, 2021 we have our Christ the King Challenge, and the question is: Have we chosen to make Jesus the centre of our life? And we’ll put up our hands if we have. I’m really looking forward to this moment because it gives all of us clarity about where Jesus is in our lives. Is Jesus outside of our lives, a part of it, or have we made a choice to have Him be the centre? Think and pray about it. What would we answer in six weeks?
Today is the first anniversary of the beatification of Carlo Acutis, the first millennial to be recognized as a saint. Here’s a three-minute video about him. (Please watch 1:09-2:54, 3:48-4:15, 4:53-6:13.)
Bl. Carlo lived a very normal, and some would say full human life, with family, friends, sports, etc. But his heart was always set on eternal life. He said, “We are to live for the infinite, not the finite. The infinite is our true home”. That’s why he used the internet to share Jesus with others, and helped evangelize people who never knew Jesus. And yet Jesus allowed Bl. Carlo to get leukemia at age 15, precisely so that he could become like Jesus in his suffering, and he said, “I offer to the Lord the sufferings that I will have to undergo for the Pope and the Church.” He died on Oct. 12, 2006.
Jesus is allowing the difficult circumstances in our life not to hurt us. He’s smiling at us, because He’s made us for greatness, to be saints.