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July 30, 2009

The path to holiness

Holiness is a mystery. It will always elude us. The moment we think we have it made, we'd better start from scratch; the moment we want to walk tall, we'd best get down on our knees, and the minute we think we're without sin , we've just committed the biggest one!

- Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Indeed, although we may progress on the path to holiness, we will never arrive there during our earthly lives. And sometimes we don't make much headway because we follow little side paths, thinking that they're going to lead us to sanctity.

We may think we're spiritual when our actions make us feel good, but we were clearly warned by Jesus that we are to carry a cross, and that we may well face persecutions. So we can't gauge holiness by the way it makes us feel.

And we're not necessarily holy because we sound good to others. We need look no further than a few prominent televangelists whose fall from grace made the headlines.

It is even possible to do good without being holy. The Pharisees obeyed the law, and yet Jesus told them, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." (Matthew 23:27)

So what are we to do if it is possible to feel good, sound good, and do good without being holy?

We're to entrust our holiness to Jesus and allow him to work within us despite our weaknesses.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

We all have weaknesses. That's why we can't be holy on our own. It is only when we allow Jesus to work in us that our weaknesses are overcome.

Then, we can make progress on the path to holiness.


  1. What a remarkable lesson Archbishop Dolan gives me in that quote!!! Thank you!!! Cathy

  2. We should try looking at it from the other end of life--from the beginning. We were CREATED as something holy, "...a little less than the angels, and...crowned...with glory and honor." All we have to do to remain holy, to remain what God intended us to be, is to behave all our lives in a way that acknowledges the fullness of our humanity as reflected in the Biblical quotation just cited.

    Yeah right. Easier said than done. Still, we have the benchmark of our dignity (and our holiness) in this definition of what it means to be human.

  3. Hi Sue,

    Thanks for stopping by Bread Crumbs and commenting on my site.

    I like this post of yours because it addresses one of the issues where the Church fails so many times. We try to be holy on our own and focus on the "act" of holiness, rather than keeping the focus of discipleship, which produces consistent relationships with God through His Word and prayer...leading to holiness by abiding in the Vine.

    Thanks for this reminder.

    Blessings to you.

  4. Have to disagree; the Church has pointed out a number of saints who have "achieved holiness" in their earthly life, such as Maximillian Kolbe and Karol Wojtyla just in the 20th century.


  5. That's a good point in that the church has pointed out saints who are now in heaven. But by cannonizing the saints the Church is saying who we believe are in Heaven not necessarily that they reached holiness while on Earth. JPII continued to go to weekly confession and if he had reached holiness he would have no need for it. Many of the saint's writings have talked about they drive for holiness.

    And for the rest of us slugs---it IS a never ending path until we reach Heaven. The important thing is to keep going even when we trip, fall, or even go backwards. Fortunately, we have the sacraments to assist us on this goal.


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