Growing in holiness is kind of like climbing a mountain. However, instead of struggling to the top on our own, we actually get to the top by letting go of the mountain and allowing Jesus to carry us up. He died on the cross so that we could be saved. As the First Letter of St. Peter puts it, "For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit." (1 Peter 3, 18) He does the lifting, we just have to be lifted. That's not always as easy as it seems.

Through our Baptism, we are in Jesus's arms, but we need to cooperate as he bears us up the steep slopes. Think of holding a toddler. If they want down, it is almost impossible to carry them. We don't want to be the cross, we want to help carry the cross. With this in mind, I offer 5 ways to get to the top.

Exercise the Good Muscle. - Imagine virtue and vice as muscles in your body. Every time you do something good, your good muscle grows stronger and the bad muscle gets weaker. However, the opposite is also true. Good things make us better, so we need to consciously decide to grow in the good and let the bad muscle atrophy. Ask yourself, "Is this making me stronger in faith and love?"

Weakness is Good. - I know I just told you to exercise your good muscle and now it seems I am saying the opposite. St. Paul says that the Lord told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12, 9) We have to recognize that it's the Lord's strength in us that makes us good. It is his love that makes my love perfect. It is his courage that gives me the boldness to proclaim the Gospel. It is his forgiveness of me that allows me to show true mercy to others.

Just One Cookie. - When a fat person eats a cookie, it's likely they might say, "What the heck, I might as well eat the whole bag." When a skinny person eats a cookie, they probably say, "I need to work out a little more tomorrow." To get to the top, we need to break a cycle of failure that causes us to throw in the towel when we should be doing deep knee bends to pick it up.

Before the Lights Go Out. - Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." We are either acting on a plan or reacting to someone else's. To stop and take stock is a key element of following the Lord. Before the lights go out at bedtime, thank God for the gift of the day. Ask the Lord for the blessing to know him and follow him more closely. Then replay the day. Look for times when you noticed him, when you ignored him, when you avoided him, when you welcomed him. Finally, make a plan for the next day.

Bless me, Father. - I have started to go to Confession every week if I can. It's amazing what a difference it makes when I go to the Lord and hand him all that which holds me back so he can strengthen me with HIS grace. I don't just sin in Lent and Advent. I need the graces that only come from this sacrament all year long. These are the graces that help me realize potential as a disciple and as his priest. These are the graces that help me settle down in Jesus's arms so that we can climb the mountain together. These are the blessings that help me show others that Jesus is the only way to get to the top!