There may be some of us who strive on our spiritual life. Lent is coming to an end, and we feel that we are not yet as close to God as we wanted to be. We may feel that our faith is not strong and that whatever spiritual discipline we observe is insufficient. As we begin the holy week, let us take a realistic check on our spiritual goals.

Let me share this story I used in my previous homily with you. It took place in the year 2000. Four enterprising families opened pizza parlors a few meters from each other within the same month on the same block in the Woodside neighborhood in New York City. The competition to gain more customers began. One owner posted a large sign, “We serve the best pizza in the city.”  Not to be outshined, the others followed, putting signs in front of their restaurants. The second wrote, “Here you can find the best pizza in the country.”  The third one, “We serve the best pizza in the world!”  The fourth owner, who had business experience, posted a more realistic sign: “We serve the best pizza on the block.”  And guess what? That shop is the only one among the four that still serves pizza today. The owner’s realistic claim brought many customers to the restaurant.

How can we apply a similar kind of authenticity to our Christian life?  We also have to set realistic expectations in our spiritual life. To be followers of Jesus, our primary goal is to live a holiness like that of the saints, but we don’t need to rival the holiness and kindness of the heart of St. Thérèse of Lisieux or Mother Teresa.

Being a disciple of Jesus does not mean that we must achieve perfection. We are called to make progress.  And the progress we make does not need to be extraordinary.  It can occur in small steps using the ordinary circumstances in our life. We know that Jesus raised the bar of how to live as his followers. He said you shall take up your cross and follow me.

When he met a wealthy young man, he told him to leave all his wealth to follow Him. However, when Jesus challenges us, he does it with understanding and compassion. At one point, Jesus says unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it becomes just a single grain with no life.

The image of a single grain of wheat tells us that our sacrifice does not need to be huge and that our growth and transformation can happen in little steps. We just need to make progress and set our goals accordingly.  Let us be realistic and authentic.  We do not have to be the most generous person in the United States. We only need to be someone more inclined to show interest to your neighbors in need.

You do not need to be the holiest person at St. Vincent Ferrer Parish. We only need to be a step closer to God when we leave the church after each Sunday Mass. This is indeed a single grain of wheat falling on the ground and bearing fruit.