Quick! Recall three of the most influential Catholics to have ever lived.
Mother Teresa? Thomas More? Francis of Assisi?
Whomever you chose, it’s a good bet they rank right up there with these Catholic Greats.
But have you ever asked yourself why they are so “great?” What is it about them that makes the Church sit up and say, “Hey everyone, look at her! Look at him!”…and we all do?
The reason is simple.
They were transformed.
In love with Jesus
We are changed for better or for worse by who — or what — we love.
People who have a great love of wealth become greedy, miserly creatures.
Those who idolize beauty are eventually narcissists.
But those in love with Jesus are refashioned into something else. Having encountered his fierce love for them, they respond with generosity to his radical invitation to become who he is:
Over time those possessed by love for the God of the Universe are converted. He changes their life, right down to the core of their being.
That is how an unassuming, poor little woman like Mother Teresa could pick up dying people off the streets of Calcutta and love them tenderly until they gasped their last breath.
She adored Jesus…so much so that she became like him to everyone she met.
When he wrote to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul told them not to conform themselves to the world and its thoughts, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
And what was the world’s way of thinking in ancient Rome?
- Women freely took medicinal herbs as abortifacients.
- Gay marriage ceremonies were in vogue.
- Adultery was widespread.
- The death penalty was a form of entertainment.
Living day-to-day among people who accepted these things as normal, it would have been easy for a Christian to be swept away by groupthink. To lose sight of what God sees as “good and acceptable and perfect.”
But the Catholic Greats, once authentically converted, have never allowed their consciences to be shaped by popular opinion. They are too busy shaping it according to Christ and His Church.
In 16th century England when people threw their support behind King Henry VIII’s play to make himself the self-styled Pope of England, Sir Thomas More did not hesitate or compromise.
For a man in love with God and devoted to careful education in the faith, there was no other option but to refuse to give his consent.
This strength of conviction could not be shaken by the whims of the current political climate or the temptation to “get with the times.” Sir Thomas went to his death — and into the magnificent eternity of Heaven — for having a renewed Catholic mind.
His heroic sacrifice now inspires the persevering faith of millions whose deepest-held beliefs are ridiculed, minimized and outright attacked in societies across the globe. And thousands have answered the call to work in the noble defense of religious liberty under his banner.
You see, people whose conscience has been transformed by Christ know what pleases Christ.
And then, instead of the world changing them, they will change the world.
The human person is made for God.
We simply cannot find joy until at last we know Him and know that He loves us.
People seek far and wide and in all sorts of good (and bad) places for God, but the very foundation of our faith reminds us that it is in the Catholic Church where the precious pearl of God’s Kingdom is found.
Radiant. Complete. Alive.
Some of us were given access to this gift at our birth and others have had to travel through many long and difficult years to find it. But in the end, how we got it isn’t as important as what we do with it once it’s ours.
For many the temptation to use our Christian faith like an Exclusive Access pass, tucking it away and only wearing it when it benefits us, is far too real.
Worse yet, we shut ourselves up in our Catholic cliques so tightly that we start thinking no one else is worthy of the very same mercy and love we have received.
“Certainly God doesn’t want anything to do with that heretic…that sinner.”
The person in genuine relationship with Jesus understands differently. God belongs to everyone, and everyone has rights to Him.
There is no one God doesn’t seek and no one He isn’t absolutely crazy about.
It makes sense then that one of the holiest men to ever live, Francis of Assisi, was a man of unmatched missionary zeal. Traveling throughout the Italian countryside and beyond, Francis went as far as Egypt to proclaim the Gospel to anybody willing to listen.
Because as an authentic disciple who had been transformed, he realized God desired others just as much as He desired him. It would be an insult NOT to share what he had been so generously given.
As a result, his New Evangelization not only converted whole towns who had grown sickly in their faith, he revived the entire Catholic Church.
Those who “collect” God and store Him away in the comfort of their homes, their ministries and their churches are in serious danger of spiritual death. They become anemic, irrelevant Christians incapable of doing the job entrusted to them.
But the person who risks all they have to give God away?
They become the Greats.
The decision is ours
We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably even said it ourselves.
“Hey, I never claimed to be a Saint.”
It’s the remark that excuses us from everything: our boorish manners, our apathy for doing good, our stubborn pursuit of everything worldly.
But if we’re honest, what we really mean to say is, “I don’t want to put in more effort than I do now. What I’m doing is Good Enough, so who cares about being Great?”
We forget just one thing.
Christian mediocrity never earns God’s stamp of approval. There is no, “Atta Girl!” waiting at the gates of Heaven for someone who knows she could have tried harder, but just, well, didn’t.
Maybe we’re not the next Therese of Lisieux or John Paul II. Maybe we won’t reach the heights of sanctity before our death.
But then again, maybe we will. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll reach even higher.
So just for today, sit in silence somewhere — anywhere — and tell Jesus you’re sorry. Just for today tell him ‘thank you.’ Just for today tell him about your life, your dreams and your pain.
He loves you. He’ll help you. He’s been waiting for this moment longer than you have.
Take the chance to be transformed.
It’s a move I promise you won’t regret.