The Biggest Truth in the History of Christianity
This week's reflection is written by
Very Rev. Michael S. Murray, OSFS.
In his latest book entitled, The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, New York Times bestselling author Matthew Kelly asserts:
“The myriad of lies that have always swirled around Christianity have sown doubt in the hearts and minds and eroded the faith of millions. But one lie is having a diabolical impact on the lives of modern Christians. It is the biggest lie in the history of Christianity. And now we have arrived at the heart of the matter. It is worth noting that this lie is not one that non-Christians tell. It’s a lie we tell ourselves as Christians. This is the lie: Holiness is not possible.”
“The great majority of modern Christians don’t actually believe holiness is possible. Sure, we believe it is possible for our grandmothers or some medieval saint – just not for us. We don’t believe holiness is possible for us. This is one of the greatest tragedies of every Christian era.” (p. 32)
Nothing new under the sun.
Over four hundred years ago, Francis de Sales likewise encountered many people who harbored doubts in their minds and hearts regarding their ability to pursue of life of holiness – what Francis de Sales refereed to as a life of devotion. The sole purpose of his Introduction to the Devout Life was twofold: (1) to proclaim that all people are called to live holy lives, and (2) to illustrate how all people can actually live holy lives! Francis observed:
“Almost all those who have hitherto written about devotion have been concerned with instructing persons wholly withdrawn from the world or have at least taught a kind of devotion that leads to such complete retirement. My purpose is to instruct those who live in town, within families or at court, and by their state of life are obliged to live an ordinary life as to outward appearances.” (p. 33)
Francis de Sales’ critical insight was that while all people are called to live a life of holiness – and that all people can actually live holy lives – no two people accomplish this in exactly the same way. Francis wrote:
“When he created things, God commanded plants to bring forth their fruits, each one according to its kind. In like manner – God commands Christians – the living plants of the Church – to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each according to one’s position and vocation. Devotion must be exercised in different ways by the gentleman, the worker, the servant, the prince, the widow, the young girl and the married woman. Not only is this true, but the practice of devotion must also be adapted to the strength, activities and duties of each particular person.” (p. 43)
Still, the notion of living a life of holiness is daunting – and rightly so. Living a life of sobriety is daunting – and rightly so. That said, the key to actually living a holy life – a common thread found in Francis de Sales, Matthew Kelly and Bill W. – is the importance of living in the present moment. Tasks that seem impossible are better approached by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable steps.
Ask me to live a holy life and you might simply discourage me. By contrast, ask me to live a “holy moment” and I might deem that actually doable. And if I manage to increase the number of “holy moments” in my life – why, over time – I can gradually experience something of the power and possibility that comes with advancing in holiness through my commitment to focus on how I am living the gift of each and every present moment.
The biggest lie? I can’t live a holy life! The biggest truth? I can live holy moments…with the grace of God, and the support of others: not yesterday, not tomorrow, just today.
Do you believe?