One of the first pieces of Sacred Scripture we hear at Easter is from the third chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1) Resurrection Faith, of course, is ignited and powered by the Easter sacrament of baptism. The entire third chapter of Colossians focuses upon that elementary lesson of Pauline theology and the building of the faith community according to the basic Gospel challenge of Jesus, love God and love one another. Thus, Christianity must be seen in practice and understood in spirit as a positive force in human life that binds us together in the love of God and the fellowship with Jesus Himself. Christianity is not simply the avoidance of sin, but rather, the positive force for good in the world by believers. Christian moral conduct is established in union with Jesus and brought to perfection by a life of prayer and by participation in the life of grace that is obtained through the reception of the other sacraments.
We must make purposeful life plans to work with God’s grace through Christ and His Church.
St. Paul instructs us in the teaching to the Colossians how we are to be Christ’s chosen ones, His beloved—His saints. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience … and above all these things put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts …” (Col. 3:12-15)
The “peace of Christ” is that quality flowing from the new order of grace that Jesus has established; grace gives us direct access to God and to that peace for which each and every one of us yearns. St. Augustine reminds us that God has made us for Himself and “our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” (Confessions 1)
Saints, in our ordinary lives, are always associated with those who have been called forth and proclaimed such by the Church. While that is true, it is always noteworthy for us to give witness to those whom we know who live the life of grace and lead us to know Christ by their actions. Everyone is created by God and destined for heaven. The Baltimore Catechism and the current Catechism of the Catholic Church teach us that we were created to know, love and serve God in this world and to be happy with Him in the next.
Our lives, indeed, are meant to be purposeful; people should see that we believe in Jesus Christ and in the teachings of His Church and act upon that belief in our daily lives. It is strange that many people do not list among their “bucket list” wishes to die and go to heaven. We’re often very ready to tell people to “go to h—,” but not really aware of the necessity of showing people that we WANT them and ourselves to go to heaven.
We often put God at the end of our life plans—if He is there at all. We Catholics, in particular, must make purposeful life plans and genuine procedures to work with God’s grace, through Christ and His Church, to use our baptismal gifts to build our lives in conformity with those points that St. Paul expresses in Colossians and that other saints have taught about by their lives and writings.
“Conversion is something momentary,” wrote St. Jose Maria Escriva, “sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” We find ourselves reflecting on the life and work of the Servant of God Father Joe Walijewski, whose life and good works we hold before God in prayer. We pray for his beatification and canonization. That work is being cared for in Rome and in prayer in homes all over the world. Those who knew Father Joe in this life knew of his ability to live the life of grace and bring others to it. Many of us know of him only through his work in the Church in our diocese and in our foreign mission works. It is important to continue to pray for Father Joe’s cause. It is equally important to make sainthood our cause—every day.
Live each day as if this is the day that God is going to call you to heaven. Are you ready?
Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan
is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse