When I was a teenager, I had a big problem. Like many young men my age, I liked a girl and I was not sure if she liked me. I pondered my difficult situation for about a week until I received my answer. One day I was in art class working on a project for class when I suddenly had the sneaking suspicion that someone was watching me. As I looked up, I saw the girl who liked me walking by. She was staring at me so intensely that she was not paying attention to where she was walking. She walked straight into a filing cabinet and then fell on the floor.
To love and to be loved is at the heart of what it means to be human. This is not only true of our relationships with each other, but is also the defining characteristic of our relationship with God. Although we may have heard this many times before, often our practice of the faith is less a romance of holiness and more of a series of obligation that seem to be imposed on us by God.
Of course, obligation and duty are an important aspect of religion, one that provides a kind of threshold morality. Such standards help guide the young and provide structure for our early stages of development. However, if such obligations are to bear fruit, they must be animated by the dynamism of love. In this way, obligations do not become stale, impersonal dictates of reason, but rather commitments that stem from intimacy.
The saints are those people who have discovered that the external law finds its fulfillment in the inner law of freedom and intimacy. The external law of rules and regulations help temper the passions and guide our behaviors so that the inner law can flourish. The external law is meaningless unless it is accompanied by the interior conversion which allows for the internal law. This law is not merely something that is added onto the human person, but rather is the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit allows the believer to address God thereby entering into communion with the Most Holy Trinity. Furthermore, it is through the outpouring of the Spirit that we receive adopted sonship.
In this way, the romance of holiness which marked the saints is nothing short of a participation in the love of God. This participation includes such a dramatic identification with the beloved that the saint confidently says of our Lord that it is “no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The saint’s intimacy gives him or her the ability to discover Christ within through the promptings of the Spirit, and this in turn opens up avenues of grace and transformation.
For us to imitate the saints, we must stir the flames of holy desire. We must allow ourselves to be consumed by a longing for our God to such an extent that we lose our desire for the things of this world. If our hearts grow cold and lukewarm, we must desperately call out for the purifying flame of Divine love, and let the Spirit guide us to this most precious gift.