Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Lord, Lord, when did we see you hungry? When did we see you naked? When did we see you? Where do we see you?
The more accurate reading of our souls is: When do we not see Christ? Where do we not see Christ? Why do we not see Christ?
The answers: whenever we opt to love ourselves more than our neighbor, whenever we opt not to see someone as our neighbor, and whenever we embrace sin, rather than God’s will.
We celebrated All Saints’ Day, the day marking those we know who submitted to God’s will, who loved God deeply enough to trust in his grace, his mercy, his generosity, his providence, his deep abiding love. These are the examples we’re supposed to follow. While each saint is different, there are hallmarks of the interior life of these individuals that reveal a pattern we can imitate.
The saints started with love of Jesus, with falling in love with the Lord. The little “yeses” in their lives led to bigger ones. God loves to plant mustard seeds of faith, and watch as we — with our will to love — reveal more and more of God’s love, such that the love is visible to the world, like the tallest of trees.
So we should start with the simple questions: Do we love the Lord? Do we know if we love the Lord? How much do we love the Lord? Or are we keeping God at a safe distance, as an acquaintance or colleague, as someone like a locksmith, someone we reach out to when we need, and no other time. Someone we love, we seek out. Someone we love, we spend time with, we waste time with, and consider it time well spent. So spend time with God in the sacraments, Scripture and in prayer. It’s the start.
The saints began with where they were. Saint Teresa of Calcutta began on the streets where she saw the beggar. Saint Francis of Assisi began with the dilapidated church called San Damiano. They soon discovered the “call within the call” to more than the first steps of literal service, to the poor, and to rebuild the Church. So begin where you are, asking God, “Speak Lord, I come to do your will.”
And listen. Look with the eyes of God to see where to reveal Christ. Listen with the ears of God, that you might hear God’s instruction to you about what to do in your day. Get to work with what you know, and follow through. God will give you more, every time you give back to God. It’s the middle.
The saints showed heroic persistence. Many of them became physically incapable, and yet more active spiritually as a result, offering up redemptive suffering in reparation for the sins and pains of the world, and as a form of loving prayer. I remember how Pope Saint John Paul the Great shook as he looked out at the crowds, seeking a glimpse of their pope. You could see on his face the great effort it took, and how much he wanted to be speaking to, instructing, loving his flock actively by doing. Saint Katherine Drexel also spent much of her time in deep prayer after a severe heart attack forced her to retire.
The saints keep at it every day until death, not allowing physical ailments and sufferings to deter them from continuing to offer each day to God. One might say, they don’t even let a little thing like death stop them, as the saints are alive and more active now than even in their lifetimes here on Earth. Just ask anyone who received a flower from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, or found what they lost from Saint Anthony. They never stop interceding for others, physically or spiritually, because they love their neighbor as God loves their neighbor. There is no end.
Now, go back to the three questions: When do we not see Christ? Fix it so the answer is we never fail to see Christ. Where do we not find Christ? Fix it so people find Christ there. Why do we not see Christ? Fix ourselves so we’re not blinded by sins or selfishness.
We want to be in the listing of All Saints, so it’s time to begin.