This week, I’d like to talk about something that I’ve experienced, that maybe some of the rest of you could relate to. Let’s call it… Catholic guilt.
Implicated in it is a constant anxiety of – I haven’t volunteered enough! I haven’t donated enough! I haven’t prayed enough! I’M NOT A GOOD PERSON! God looks down on me from His heavenly throne and shakes His head in disappointment.
Then let me put forth a shocking little truth – and one that we need to be constantly reminded of.
As a Catholic, as a Christian, you’re not called to be a “Good Person”.
Stay with me here.
What makes someone a good person? Is the fabled Good Person always feeding the poor in a soup kitchen, a smile on their faces all the time, fasting, praying, not having any flaw or any struggle as they have time to give every cause and every needy person that comes their way?
Of course, we are called to give ourselves, to love – in fact, to love as Christ loves. But this does not mean we are called to build up a “Good Person” persona. In fact, the greatest saints were the ones who were the least in denial about their weaknesses! They had their grumpy moments. They had their struggles. And they knew not to rely on their strength – but on God’s. They had faith.
Saint Paul once wrote, “a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16). This may sound both familiar and cryptic. But in fact, it gets right at the heart of the matter. “Being a good person” is not the Gospel! It will not save you. It will not fulfill you – and as you seek it, it will stress you out as you realize that you are a flawed and sinful human being. We are not first and foremost called to be “Good People.” We are called to be people of faith. That faith is where true goodness, with all its textured journey, all its stumbles and falls along the way, begins. This is the goodness Saint Paul writes about when he says, “faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness” (Rom 4:9).
Let go of perfectionism. Let go of having to have everything together, of needing to be God’s flawless disciple. Accept your weaknesses – God uses them to humble you. It’s from there that He Himself can really begin to make you His beautiful, holy one, His saint. It’s from there that you open yourself to His work in you in the first place.
“…The main point of spiritual life consists in so disposing ourselves to grace through purity of heart that, of two people who consecrate themselves at the same time to God’s service, if one gives himself wholly to good works and the other applies himself entirely to purifying his heart and cutting way what there is in it that opposes grace, this second person will achieve perfection twice as quickly as the first.” (Jacques Philippe, In The School of Holy Spirit, p. 76)