SOMETIMES we make things more complicated than they should be.
Long debates over dos and don’ts when the Golden Rule would do. Theological treatises and philosophical papers on divine love, instead of one picture of a flaming, wounded heart ringed with thorns. Powerpoint presentations and thick project reports on cash transfers, yet the poor feel government caring far more with one presidential lunch in Tondo.
Sure, there are complicated moral situations that need more than just the Ten Commandments to resolve. But for most of us in everyday life, simple is best.
So it was good to hear the simple steps to goodness from a couple of recent mass homilies by Fr. Alex Magtibay, of the Oblates of Saint Joseph, parish priest of Santuario de San Jose, in Greenhills, to wit:
Obey. Pray. Serve.
Bring God to your life. Stay apart from the world. Serve with charity and sacrifice.
Let’s start with the last three steps first. Fr. Alex listed them in his sermon at the June 27 mass on the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, the religious order that promotes holiness in everyday life by doing ordinary things with great love and devotion.
That’s just like the two holy people in St. Josemaria’s name, Joseph and Mary. Their family life with Jesus in Nazareth was filled with simple, ordinary things to do with great love and devotion, from daily chores and meals, to conversation, recreation, and prayer.
1. Bring God into every bit of your life.
So in bringing us to holiness, said Fr. Alex, “God will not take us out of our place in the world.”
A sister, brother, mother, father, grandma or grandpa is called to be holy as they are where they are.
Same with a farmer, a lawyer, a doctor, a soldier, a janitor, a teacher, a student, and any other occupation.
To be holy we just have to do our job and live our state in life with the same devotion to God, obedience to His will, and caring for others that His Son Jesus showed in His 33 years with us.
2. Resist the lures of the world.
While we are in the world, our Lord said, we are not “of the world,” consumed by its creature comforts and cravings. This detachment is another tenet cited by Fr. Alex in his homily on St. Josemaria.
Besides avoiding sinful pleasures, detachment also means living simply so we can give more to others. Live simply so that others may simply live, as Fr. Alex put it, quoting Mahatma Gandhi.
The simple life is also part of being poor in spirit, the first of the Beatitudes, thanking and depending on God for everything we have.
Since all things come from Him, we do not waste anything or use it for our own selfish ends. Rather, everything is offered to Him for the building of His kingdom on earth.
3. Serve others with charity in our hearts.
Besides bringing God into our life and keeping the world at arm’s length, Fr. Alex cited a third essential ingredient of holiness: love.
“Many people do acts of charity without charity in their hearts,” he pointed out.
We may do good just to fulfill an obligation. Or worse: many just show off to impress others with their outward goodness, which then becomes an act of pride and pretense.
Above all else, there must be love for God and our fellowmen in all that we think, say and do.
After all, God’s two great commandments are to love Him with all our mind, heart and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And how do we enliven this love for our Lord and our brethren?
4. Obey, pray and serve.
In his homily for Pentecost Sunday, Fr. Alex distilled what we must do to show our love for God: obey, pray and serve.
In the reading from the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
That means not just obedience, but praying to God and serving Him in our less fortunate brethren.
To do God’s will, we must listen to Him in prayer and scripture, both in private prayer and Bible reading, and most especially at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Prayer also gives us the graces to persevere in goodness, avoid sin, and grow in faith, hope and love.
And in service to others, we fulfill Jesus’s wish for us to love one another as He has loved us, and to serve Him in our needy sisters and brothers.
If we do all this, then not just our lives, but our souls will be lifted to the holiness of God. That is Jesus’s promise in the same Gospel of John (Jn 14:23).
“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Souls, souls, souls
Of course, as we said in the beginning, one example is far better than so much talk, including the 800-something words you just read.
Take one day in the life of a popular child saint Dominic Savio.
At age 11, the Italian boy was falsely accused by a wayward classmate of a serious offense that the latter had actually committed. Dominic quietly bowed and accepted his teacher’s scolding and punishment.
A few days later, the truth came out, and the apologetic teacher asked Dominic why he didn’t defend himself. The boy replied: “I knew that the other boy was in trouble for other things. I remembered how Our Lord had been unjustly accused, and I hoped that if I kept silence he would be given another chance.”
In short, Dominic wanted to do as Jesus did.
Holiness. It’s that simple.