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A Guide For the Youth During Lent and Beyond: “Baby Steps” Towards Holiness

As Holy Week is few weeks from now, there is still enough time to avail of some precious opportunity to reflect on God’s profound love, particularly on His sacrificial act to redeem us from the chains of sin. A particular phrase in one of the Gospels during this Lenten Season states: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life”. The Lenten Season prompts us to contemplate the Gospel’s wisdom, urging us to relinquish our lives for eternal significance. The challenge to follow Jesus requires profound humility and selflessness, inviting us to question our commitment and readiness to partake in God’s Kingdom. Perhaps, we should further ask ourselves: Why am I am practicing fasting and abstinence? What is the meaning of all these sacrifices – about this Journey of Lent? What am I doing? Where am I going? Where are the areas that I have to improve and grow in my relationship with God?

As we engage in fasting and abstinence during Fridays of the Lenten Season, it is crucial to discern the deeper meaning of this Lenten journey. Are we moving towards Jesus or drifting away? This self-examination/meditation encourages us to identify areas for spiritual growth, fostering a more profound connection with God. Amidst the myriad questions, the universal call to holiness echoes through the teachings of St. Matthew, St. Paul, St. Jose Maria Escriva, and other holy saints. They emphasize that holiness is attainable in our daily lives, irrespective of age, occupation, or societal role. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, likewise believes in this and echoes the same when he mentioned, in one of his General Audiences at the Vatican, that we are called to be saints and that we can do it in the course of our ordinary lives.

Facing the prospect of wholeheartedly following Jesus can be daunting, as it challenges established norms and comforts. Fears may arise about jeopardizing family aspirations, careers, and material possessions. These hesitations in following Jesus stem from the fact that we have been used to adopting the status quo- that we simply go through the motions, go through the cycle of life because that’s relatively easy for us to do, fulfilling our obligations as Christians such as hearing mass on Sundays to hear God’s word, then the following day (Monday), some of us may have to go to work, then we go back home, we eat, we sleep and we go on with our lives on a daily routine basis – forgetting the very essense of our Christian faith, the meaning of the Word of God – why we are on earth, and the very purpose of our existence. However, the path to holiness is acknowledged to be arduous, marked by struggles, failures, and sacrifices. Pope Francis underscores that holiness is a divine gift, requiring earnest prayer and reliance on God’s blessings. The call to holiness is not confined to clergy, religious people and lay organizations, but extends to ordinary lay individuals, encouraging a transformative mindset in the midst of daily routines.

It is completely understandable that some of us may perceive that a decision to fully embrace a life following Jesus as burdensome simply because of the enormous responsibility attached to it. We have this fear that following Jesus may disrupt family dreams, careers, and personal aspirationns. The fear of losing loved ones, wealth and possessions may create apprehensions about detaching from material and worldly things to walk in God’s path. While such hesitations may hold merit as following Jesus is not a seamless journey, the fact is there will always be struggles, failures and losses along the way. However, we should bear in mind that what matters to God is our sincere effort and commitment and that He will take care of the rest for those who earnestly follow and obey

Acknowledging the doubts and hesitations that may arise, it is essential to remember that saints were not immune to making mistakes. The invitation to holiness is not exclusive to the righteous but explicitly directed towards sinners. Jesus, in his mission, sought to call sinners to share in His joy and love. Embracing holiness is not confined to grand gestures but encompasses everyday actions and attitudes.

Pope Francis emphasizes our universal call to holiness, asserting that it is a divine gift that requires God’s blessings. Thus, we have to ask God for it by fervently praying for it to be granted. Our internal challenge lies in misconceptions that holiness entails emulating the extraordinary lives of saints who renounced worldly ties or faced martyrdom. It’s essential to recognize that saints, too, made flawed decisions but subsequently transformed their lives by choosing to love and follow Christ. Jesus himself made it clear that his mission wasn’t to call the righteous but sinners. The invitation to holiness stems from Jesus’ desire for us to share in His joy and love, extending this shared experience to others. Embracing holiness allows us to follow Jesus and anticipate our place in His heavenly Kingdom.

I fondly reminisce about my younger years, particularly during my involvement in a spiritual formation circle initiated by friends who are members of a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. It was there that I learned the profound truth that holiness can be practiced anywhere – within the confines of the Church, at home, in our workplaces, or even while in transit. It revolves around the simple yet impactful actions we undertake in our daily lives.

It is about the little things that we do on a daily basis: from uttering the Morning Prayer upon awakening to expressing gratitude for a restful night’s sleep and for the sunshine of a new day, to relishing a cup of invigorating coffee, and reciting the Holy Rosary or the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy during the commute to the office – ahh, holiness, I discovered, is embedded in the minutiae of life. Acts such as assisting an elderly person in crossing the street or giving him/her your subway train/metro bus seat, greeting office mates with warmth (even those we perceive as less fond of us), avoiding engagement in office gossip, and, upon returning home, attending to our family’s needs – each of these embodies holiness.

As we unwind in the evening, scrolling through social media before bedtime, reacting positively to friends’ posts, sharing prayers, acknowledging daily achievements – these seemingly small gestures contribute to cultivating an environment of kindness and love. Additionally, sparing time to spread the Word of God and Church teachings, especially to the youth, becomes a meaningful endeavor.

The Holy Father imparts to us all that holiness can be practiced in all facets of life, emphasizing the significance of small daily acts. These “baby steps” towards holiness involve gratitude, kindness, and selflessness in our interactions, whether at home, work, or in transit. Through consistent good deeds, we can progressively evolve into better individuals, contributing positively to the world around us

These simple gestures of kindness and love, described as ‘baby steps’, are the building blocks of a habit that brings joy to God through our benevolent actions. As we integrate these practices into our lives, we may find ourselves progressing towards more significant tasks and opportunities to be better persons. This transformative journey has the potential to mold us into more humble and selfless individuals, eventually earning us the designation of being truly holy. Isn’t it a wonderful prospect?

In this Lenten season, the call to repentance – amending our ways and repenting for our sins – is a chance for spiritual renewal. Acknowledging our human frailties, we seek God’s assistance to overcome sin and follow Jesus more closely. Prayers are helpful, it provides us peace of mind, courage and strength to walk in God’s path. Jesus is inviting us to follow Him, and if He is inviting us, that means it’s possible, even for us ordinary people, especially those wounded and scarred, to be passionate about God just like what the other holy people did.

Let’s say the Serenity Prayer for our quest to holiness: Our loving and generous God, grant us the grace to accept the things we cannot change; courage to change the things we can; and wisdom to know the difference. May all of us have a joyful and blessed Journey of Lent. Amen.

Jesus, King of Mercy, we trust in You. Amen.

O Holy Mary, our hope, handmaid of the Lord, pray for us. Amen.

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