Antonio Cardinal Bacci
1. Very few people are destined to great things by Almighty God. Most of us must offer ourselves in the relatively unimportant walks of life in which we have been placed by Providence. Only some of the Saints were endowed with exceptional virtues and miraculous powers which attracted the attention and admiration of the world. In the normal course of events Christian perfection must be acquired little by little through the practice of ordinary virtues and unspectacular good actions. There is always scope for these. An upsurge of anger can be suppressed from the motive of the love of God and of our neighbour. We can behave courteously towards people who are unsympathetic towards us or who offend us by their unmannerly conduct. We can combat pride by acts of humility and egoism by acts of charity. We can mortify ourselves in speech, in behaviour, and at table, and we can give alms to the poor, good advice to the ignorant, and comfort to the afflicted.
All these virtuous actions are insignificant in the eyes of men, but they are great in the sight of God. The blades of grass and the flowers in the meadow are tiny things, but joined together they constitute the pasture which provides nourishment for the herds and flocks. Let us perform these small actions every day and so cultivate the ordinary virtues. We shall attract the attention and favour of God, Who will help us to advance step by step towards the peak of Christian perfection.
2. Just as there are very ordinary acts of virtue, so there are very ordinary sins. But it would be rash to regard acts of deception, vanity and impatience as insignificant. Every deliberate sin is an offence against God, our highest good and our Redeemer.
How can God be indifferent to these ungrateful violations of His law? After all, even as He has assured us that a cup of cold water given in His name to a thirsty man will have its reward, (Cf. Mt. 10:42) so He has assured us that not even the slightest trace of sin can enter into eternal glory. We shall not be condemned to Hell for venial sins alone, but we shall suffer a decline in grace and shall be obliged to expiate our sins either in this life or in Purgatory.
3. Our eternal salvation will probably be determined by these ordinary acts of virtue and these ordinary sins. Jesus compared the kingdom of Heaven to a mustard-seed which grows into a tree. Similarly, many Saints began their spiritual ascent by following up one simple inspiration, and many souls, perhaps, have found themselves condemned as a result of having neglected the commonplace virtues and inspirations.
Ordinary virtue may develop into heroic virtue, but if a man has neglected to train himself to act well in small matters, how will he behave in a time of great spiritual trial? Experience also teaches us that smaller vices can develop into great vices. He who wastes the little he has will be stripped bare. (Ecclus. 19:1) A man who is not faithful to God in little things will not be faithful in greater things. We are either going up or down in the way of perfection; it is almost impossible to stand still. If we sincerely wish to make progress, let us resolve to avoid the least suggestion of sin and to enrich ourselves daily by tiny acts of virtue.