Once a priest was asking for help to open a house of mercy. He began asking people to support this work of mercy, and they started helping him. However, he had this dialogue with one of his potential benefactors:
– Father, do you want me to contribute to your work or commit to it?
– What is the difference? –the priest asked.
– Well –the man said– I will explain it with an example: imagine that you have an egg and bacon on your breakfast plate. I would say that the chicken contributed to your breakfast while the pig committed itself.
This example can help us to reflect on the way that we work on our holiness. Holiness is a work of God, we cannot do this work by ourselves, nor can we be the main player in this work. Holiness is supernatural and we cannot perform supernatural actions on our own.
However, with the grace of God, we can and must get involved in the work of our sanctification. However, using the example above, we can get involved simply by contributing to it or we can (and should) commit ourselves to it.
What is the difference between the two? If someone prays every day, asking God for the grace to grow in holiness, for the grace of final perseverance, etc., but that person does not work or works very little on his spiritual life, then I would say that that person is contributing to his sanctification.
Some examples of this are when we want to achieve holiness but we want to achieve it in our way rather than God’s way; when we do not always want to follow God’s grace, meaning that we are generous only in the things that we want to be generous in rather than in all everything that we should do in order to increase God’s grace in our souls; when we want to renounce only certain things rather than deny ourselves in everything; when we want to keep some affections; when we look forward to receiving consolations, both from God and from the world.
Blessed Allamano, talking about people who seek holiness in this way, says that these people “do not enjoy true peace in life and accumulate a lot of material for purgatory” (Lorenzo Sales, Spiritual life according to the ascetic conversations of Blessed Giuseppe Allamano). It is clear that to become saints we need to commit ourselves to the work of our sanctification. This means that we must try our best in order to achieve holiness.
For this to happen, it is important to constantly evaluate if we are fighting against our main sins, defects, imperfections; if we are using the best means in order to fight against them; if we are trying to achieve the virtues we need to defeat them and grow in holiness; in short, if we are trying our best to grow in holiness using all the aspects of our spiritual life. Otherwise, we are simply contributing to our sanctification rather than committing ourselves.