“Every Catholic I know wants to go to Heaven. We just don’t want to die first…” (Scott Hahn).
I was reading a little reflection the other day about attaining salvation.
In the reflection Scott Hahn – a renowned theologian who has published many interesting theological texts – said, “Every Catholic I know wants to go to Heaven. We just don’t want to die first…”
I have been reflecting on this statement as I have been praying my prayers for all those who are sick and all those who are dying.
For we are all dying – literally – from the moment of our conception. This is because when a soul is conceived it enters into time and space, which means it exists at a specific time and in a specific place. It is in this way that each soul begins its decent into death because it is only through death – since the fall of humankind caused by Original Sin – that a soul is able to attain eternal glory in Heaven.
And so it is that I have come to realise that we undergo many transformations during our lives.
But we are not alone in such a task – God is with us and He helps us with this... Pope Saint Leo the Great explained it beautifully when he said… “Our sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ has no other purpose than to transform us into That which we receive.” For “the more devout we are at Mass, the more we should be sensing the call to give of ourselves, to give from our substance.” (Scott Hahn, Signs of Life). And this giving – this ongoing sacrifice of ourselves, our very essence, for the Glory of God – is the most profound evidence of our transformation in Christ!
And often, this process of transformation is paved with difficulty. After all, it is no easy thing to make a sacrifice of oneself to God. Many of the Saints were doubted for their piety and persecuted for their virtue and their practice of Faith.
And the interesting thing about many of those saints is that they were persecuted by their contemporary Church itself – or at least by misguided individuals within the Church itself…
Saint Paul the apostle was rejected by the early Christian communities. Imagine the horror of those early Christians who had for so long lived in fear of Saint Paul and his justice according to the Law of Moses, having to accept him amongst themselves. For many of them, Saint Paul had been directly responsible for the deaths of their friends, neighbours and loved ones. Imagine Saint Paul’s humility in having to continually prove himself to them, in having to cast himself aside and transform himself through the Holy Spirit so that God’s message would be made available to all.
Often when I reflect on this ancient saint, I forget about what the personal cost of his conversion. Obviously, he lost all his possessions and wealth through his conversion, and eventually he lost his liberty and his life. But, in my opinion, these are not the greatest things that he lost.
Saint Paul lost his pride – all of it. After all, Saint Luke – his beloved companion – wrote in the Acts of the Apostles that it was Saul (Saint Paul) who authorised the execution of the first Christian martyr, Stephen… “At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:57-58).
Saint Luke and Saint Paul left no secrets there. They did not try to cover up anything. Instead, they held Saint Paul up as what he really was – a sinner, a weak man and a murderer – and they did this for the greater glory of God, to show that God could use even one such as this for His Glory!
This meant that Saint Paul was literally transformed anew by the Grace of God, which is why we still read his letters even now, some two thousand years after he wrote them…
But Saint Paul was not the only Saint who was persecuted and whose writing we now read...
Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross – now both considered doctors of the Church – were persecuted by Christians who were fearful of their writings during their lives. It was only after their death that they were transformed by the Holy Spirit to be recognised as the inspiration they are to all Catholics.
Saint Teresa of Avila, in her masterpiece, “Interior Castle”, expressed her sorrow at having been unable to confess her sins for a period of time as the priests considered that she was only pretending piety and considered her confessions to be insincere.
And so, as I reflect on the transformation of the saints and the power of the Eucharist to transform, I feel lucky. For though I am a sinner who has such a long long way to go I have such hope that I too can be transformed so that I too can give Glory to God!
For I would truly do anything to be able to give all Glory to God!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.