The essence of holiness

Excerpts from and Reflections on the Writings of Maximilian Kolbe …Holiness, Vol. II #1001 Part 2of 2

by Annette Leib, President, M.I. Canada

The essence of holiness consists in loving God to the point of heroism.  Its hallmark is the fulfillment of God’s will, especially as expressed in the commandments of God and of the Church in the duties of one’s state of life. It’s means are (1) continuous self-vigilance in order to know one’s flaws and uproot them, engraft the virtues, …(2) prayer, whereby the soul obtains God’s supernatural graces, indispensable to the spiritual progress.” Fr. M.K.. Volume II  (Rycerz Niepokalanej, March 1922)

What does it mean to grow in holiness?  Basically, Maximilian equates “holiness” with our “love for God” to the point of heroic love.  So what basic characteristic is attributed to a hero or heroine?  Generally, such persons are renowned for their courage and boldness especially if their action is done in a truly selfless way.   A classic example is a fireman dashing into a burning building to save someone or a police putting his/her life in immediate danger in a crisis to save the life of a helpless person.  There are countless examples but an attribute that makes one “heroic” is the selfless action that goes beyond an individual’s normal response by putting one’s life on the line for another.

So to grow in holiness to the point of “heroism” is to become totally “selfless” or “self-giving” in our love for God.  It really means to make a constant effort to turn away from self-centeredness or sin, but to do so we have to come to know the nature of “sin” in our thoughts, words and actions.  When we make an honest effort to obey the commandments of God and to fulfill our daily duties in the spirit of self-giving to others, we grow not only in our love for others bur for God as well.  This is a gradual process that is done in cooperation with the grace of God that comes from trying to please Him in our daily lives.

God’s will is always an expression of His love for us, but our human will is often in conflict with His.  We are drawn to an apparent form of goodness that may lead to sin, but God’s will is always genuine goodness. If we freely choose to obey His will we grow in holiness. To surrender oneself completely without limits to the Will of God is a sign of “heroic love.”  This is an ongoing process as our human nature tends to its own self-interests and desires if it is not imbued with the power of divine love.  God’s love reaches down to the level of our humanity to heal and transform us into the likeness of His image. Prayer is the foundation of this process as it connects us to God, the source of love.

Another name for this divine love is “grace” or the life of the risen Lord Jesus. He took the burden of our fallen nature upon His cross.  From Calvary, flows His boundless mercy and love for each and every one of us.  The truly wise and receptive know and live in the power of this divine life or “grace” that flows from the crucified savior on the cross.  Jesus continues to give His life in the Holy Eucharist and in the Sacraments.  But how is this life accessible?  It is received by the light of faith and with genuine reverence. Love does not force itself on anyone.  It waits patiently to be graciously received with joy and gratitude in the spirit of prayer and humility.

There are many forms of prayer, but essentially it is placing oneself in the presence of God and learning to connect with Him so that there is a circle of love that takes place between the creature and the Creator. Without a prayerful disposition towards God, we tend to turn away from Him even though we may continue to be the recipient of His goodness.  When we neglect this first love, we lack the awareness of the source of our gifts and blessings and so there is a lack of gratitude on the part of the recipient. God wants us to be grateful for His gifts, not because He needs it, but because it opens the door to a greater flow of love between the giver and the recipient.   We break this circle of love if we appropriate all God’s gifts and talents to ourselves without reference to the giver.

If this circle of love is broken it cannot flow freely from the Creator to the creature.  Without that awareness of God’s love in a reciprocal relationship, there is no growth in “holiness to the point of heroism.”  The choice to grow in “holiness” lies in the recipient because divine love is “freely given” without coercion.