Holiness is not the leisurely pursuit of the chosen few. It is the final goal, the end-game, of the human adventure, of every human life. It is a universal, a Catholic, call and destiny. If the Beatific Vision is the destiny for which we strive; and if the content of that Vision is the bliss of being loved by the Trinity in our risen bodies and souls as well as loving the Trinity and every other human and angelic being in return, then holiness is in the end about love. As John of the Cross puts it: In the evening of life, we will be judged on love.
But the love in question has nothing to do with sentimentality or emotions. These have their place in this life, of course. The love in which holiness consists is God’s love, the love which God is. For God is love. That love can only be a pure gift to us. We can’t claim any right to it. And it was gifted to us in abundance by the Son of God through his self-sacrifice to the Father and to us on the Cross. The way it was given to us was through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Cross is one with Pentecost.
So, then: love, true love, divine love in us is the agent, the power, we receive in baptism and in the other sacraments to sacrifice ourselves for God and for one another. Not only for one another, mind you, and not primarily for one another, but for God and thus for one another. Love of this kind is holiness. Every saint, canonized or not, has known such love, has given such love.
One enemy of loving like this is when today we attribute too much importance to our heads. The head must be the servant of the heart, otherwise it will wither it. No-one can deny the many advances and good things which human intelligence has achieved over the centuries. Today, it is science which dominates and it, too, continues to bring many benefits to us, even if only of a worldly nature. But science has falsely claimed a quasi-dogmatic role in contemporary life, such that if something is not scientifically proven, it means little or nothing. But in that case, what then happens to poetry, to art, to music, to romance, to love? We see the dark side of the mind especially in ideology which seeks to reduce the meaning of life to the favourite ideas of an individual or group, often imposed with violence or through influencing law and public opinion. Ideology divides and leads to enmity and hatred, as we see even in our own country today.
But no-one will be saved by science or by ideology or by the achievements of the mind of whatever kind. It is only the truth which comes from divine love and which is lived out in that love which will bring us to heaven, to holiness, to God. Even in the Church, ideology tries to hijack her life and mission, as if labels which belong more to politics and social life could define or dictate the meaning of faith, religion, Church and even God. Only the Cross of Jesus, only the love which it gives us through the Holy Spirit, can bring us to conquer sin and death. We cannot think or argue our way into heaven: we can, for we must, love our way there.
So, the saints teach us and show us how to love and how to be loved by Love itself. They show us therefore what it truly means to be truly human. The deep, true, sustained and courageous adventure of loving as Christ loved: that is what it means to live a truly human life; that is holiness and that is our destiny. There is, for there can be, no other.