Feb 15, 2016

Holiness for the few?

We have heard frequently about the call to holiness for all Christians as a result of our Baptism.  We are called to be holy people and in fact we are all called to be saints.  Yet, we may wonder about our true potential.  Can I really be equal to the saints of the Church? Our thinking may go something like this:

Considering my life, how ordinary things may seem when I compare that to the extraordinary lives of the great Saints such as Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Padre Pio, Teresa of Liseux, etc, I indeed fall short.  Didn’t they just seem to have a special “in with God?”  Their heroic virtue, their suffering, their accomplishments while inspiring, so overshadow my meager yet sincere efforts, that I wonder how I could ever accomplish that level of holiness. 

Yet, our first reading for this Monday's Mass offers an assuring definition of holiness that we can rest knowing holiness is possible for all of us. The call to love and service may not be equal in accomplishment on the scale of the great Saints such as Vincent de Paul or Blessed Mother Teresa, soon to be canonized.  Yet, holiness is possible and whatever good we may do is never wasted.

In the reading from Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18, http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021516.cfm God speaks to Moses: “Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” (Lv19: 1).

Then the Lord goes on to lay out the works of holiness based upon the Ten Commandments: Do not: steal, lie, speak falsely, defraud or rob your neighbor, curse the deaf, put a stumbling block in front of the blind, shall not act dishonestly, no partiality to the weak or deference to the mighty, do not spread slander, you shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart, no revenge, cherish no grudge, do love your neighbor as yourself.

If we avoid all that contributes to division, slander, injustice, revenge and treat one another (all) with kindness and forgiveness, then we are a holy people pleasing to the Lord.  THAT is possible for all of us.  It’s interesting that holiness is measured not just by our time of prayer and contemplation before the Lord.  While that is essential, holiness is measured by how we treat our neighbor.  The Commandments remind us that we worship the one God alone but then go on to speak of the social order and right relationships between people in light of the holiness of God.  As God is – we must be: Be holy, for I the Lord your God, am holy.

Nonetheless, it is challenging of course.  But in this Lenten season, a time of grace and a time to look seriously at my personal and social life, the universal call to holiness before God is the mark upon which we must stand. 

May his grace be our strength. 

Convert us, O God our Savior, 
and instruct our minds by heavenly teaching, 
that we may benefit from the works of Lent. 
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God for ever and ever. 

(Collect of Mass)