It's important to remember that the universal call to holiness is exactly that: universal and a call to holiness. But it seems that a lot of us have a hard time really believing that.
All Saints Day gives me hope. Don't get me wrong. I know that the distance between me and anything that could be called sanctity stretches longer, wider, and deeper than the Grand Canyon -- maybe even the Milky Way. But I'm grateful to be a few lightyears closer than I used to be, not because of anything I've done or achieved, but simply because God's mercy is everlasting.
Look, we all fall short. The first sinner I know I'll see every day is the one in my bathroom mirror. That's why I put a large decal there to remind me to "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever" (Ps. 136:1). We might be tempted to complain when we don't get what we deserve, but when it comes right down to it, we all hope to receive far more than we deserve. Ultimately, we all need mercy.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows how selfish I can be and have been, how much damage I've sustained and how much I've dished out. He has seen my poor attempts to stop living out of the baggage I've accumulated along the way, and watched my struggle to rein in overwhelming emotions and turn away from fear and resentment. But I'm a work in progress, and so are you. And more, it's not over yet.
I've seen this principle at work in other people, maybe you have, too. The hot-tempered grandmother I knew growing up mellowed out considerably as she got older. By the time she moved into a nursing home, no one would have believed that she had ever been feisty and fiery at all. When she died a few years ago at 102, her caregivers kept telling us how sweet she was. "Sweet" is not how my grandma would have been described when she was 40, 50, or even 70. But it is how she is remembered now. Honestly, the transformation was beautiful to watch. By the end of her life, my grandma had become her truest self, more of who she really was all along. That's the power of God's love for us.
It's important to remember that the universal call to holiness is exactly that: universal and a call to holiness. But it seems that a lot of us have a hard time really believing that. Some are completely scandalized by the idea that anyone and everyone can become holy. Soldiers? Why yes. Children? Yes again. Disabled persons? Absolutely. Stubborn, ill-tempered, lazy people? Yep. In fact, God's grace can make even the most notorious sinner a saint. It just takes time.
For as long as you and I are here, time is what we've got. The good news is that God will use whatever time we give him to shape each one of us into the person he created us to be. That is, uniquely holy in a way that only you can be. Sanctification isn't a divine bait-and-switch. The work of the Holy Spirit is a purification of who we are, not a process of turning us into someone else. Grace does not contradict nature, and God does not make cookie-cutter saints.
It's never too late. God will complete the good work he has begun in each one of us, even though the change may appear imperceivably slow to us. He is patient and will not give up on us. He is not finished, and neither are we.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.