Holiness doesn't simply "happen," but is the result of intentional choices made every day.
We often say that we want to be a better person, but then we do nothing to match our desire. Instead of making deliberate choices every day, we miss the mark and try to be good, without any personal effort.
It should come as no surprise to us that weeks later, we are not at all closer to our goal.
St. Charles Borromeo commented on this same topic in a letter that is featured in the Church’s Office of Readings. He is addressing priests in particular, but these words can still resonate with us.
I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. One priest may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships. Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?
The key to leading a virtuous life and following the example of Jesus Christ is intentional living. This means we not only rely on the grace of God, but we also make intentional choices, knowing our strengths and weaknesses.
We know those times when we are most tempted. It’s up to us to make that choice to avoid those things that lead up to it.
Borromeo gives a few more suggestions on how to live intentionally.
My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on how the Lord’s blood has washed them clean so that all that you do becomes a work of love.
Whatever you do, don’t be passive in the spiritual life. Make deliberate choices and prepare for what lies ahead. Only then can we move forward and closer to God, our ultimate goal.