When I was a teacher at St. Patrick’s, I would give a simple analogy to explain the spiritual life. I would compare our spiritual life to school, and I would ask the students if a student who follows all the rules is guaranteed an A. Obviously we all know that getting an A is about more than just doing the minimum. In a similar way, Christianity is more than a series of rules and obligations. Of course, there is a certain threshold morality that we are all called to, but many aspects of our daily lives are not governed by rules. Our daily lives often involve more.
So how do we get an A in the spiritual life? How do we excel in the ways that God intends for us? One of the real dangers of the spiritual life is that we can get comfortable with mediocrity. We look at the major sins, and we think that we are doing all right. We compare ourselves to other people who are falling into sin, and we think: Well I’m not so bad. This attitude can be disastrous because we no longer strive for the greatness that God intends. We are called to be saints, and this means that we must constantly grow in our intimacy with Jesus Christ.
We can discover the path to greatness in today’s celebration. On Pentecost we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. They had been told by the Risen Lord to await the coming of the Spirit. They were to wait for the prompting of the Spirit to begin their ministry. In this we discover that being a saint is not about how hard we try or how much we are doing for God. Rather, it is about learning to be receptive to the Holy Spirit. We must learn to rely less on ourselves and more on God. In this we learn to cooperate with His plan for our lives instead of trying to set our own agenda.
As we learn this receptivity, we begin to look more and more like the Apostles at Pentecost. We may not necessarily be called to preach the Gospel in public, but there are many everyday things that the Spirit will lead us to do. Maybe we are being called to spend more time with the poor. Maybe we can offer an open ear to a friend who is struggling in life. Maybe we can reach out to those in need of friendship in ways that truly help them to discover Christ in their lives. Whatever we are called to do, we must learn to base our decisions on God’s will before our own.
To gain a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, we must meditate daily on the Sacred Scripture. It need not be long, perhaps 10 minutes a day. As we become more and more familiar with God’s word and we ponder it in our heart, we learn to be receptive to the promptings of the Spirit. We learn to recognize the pattern of God’s word speaking in the depths of our hearts. This in turn transforms us and makes us more docile to our calling in life.