St. Thomas Aquinas was famously asked to write a book on the subject of how to be a saint. When asked about the progress of the book, he handed back his book to his questioners.
They found written inside two simple words: “Will it!”
St. Thomas’ simple message shows us that sanctity is possible and attainable – but that it is rarely achieved by self-professed Christians, precisely because most Christians don’t have the desire to achieve it.
For sanctity is not a gift given to a few. It is a constant, lifelong choice to follow God unreservedly, whatever the cost.
This is not to say that sanctity is easy to attain. The road to sanctity leads through years of toil and self-sacrifice. Our stubborn wills, weak and tainted with concupiscence as they are, often resist God’s call to holiness. We have to resist temptation in order to stay on that road.
But at the same time, the road to sanctity can be traveled – by those who wish to attain it.
The shining examples of the saints, who lived and died professing their faith in joy, is a perfect reminder that sanctity is indeed possible for humans to achieve – if they wish to do so.
For the saints were not “special” men and women in their own right, as many seem to believe. They merely made the choices that they and we are supposed to make. They simply chose to follow God’s path for them. If we wish to be saints, we merely have to follow Him.
And God always gives His creatures enough grace to resist any temptation that comes their way. While we are indeed tempted to fall into sin, we are not forced off the road to holiness by external forces. We only stray from that road if we choose to do so.
This fact makes refusal to follow in Christ’s footsteps all the more galling. He set rules for His creatures so that we might be truly happy – and we knowingly resist His will, to our own detriment. Our refusal to follow the path of sanctity is thus a direct affront to God - and a source of misery to us.
When Christ commands us to “be ye therefore perfect,” (Matt 5:48) He is not making a suggestion. His demand that we follow Him completely, as He made us to do, is a command. And He does not command the impossible. It can - and should - be done.
It is our task to become living beacons of God’s holiness; shining examples of sanctity in a world sorely lacking in it. God gave us the tools to do so, he challenges us to do so – and He expects nothing less from us.