BE HOLY, FOR I, THE LORD YOUR GOD, AM HOLY
(Lev 19:1-2, 11-18; Ps 18:8-10, 15; Mt 25:31-46)
Lent is a privilege moment to evaluate and see how far we have strive to be holy in relation to the holiness of our heavenly Father. This is the challenge given to us from the readings of today. The author of the book of Leviticus say "Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy (Lev 19:2)
This call to holiness in the manner of our heavenly Father is essential today as it was in the past. It is a call that resounds in several scriptural passages such as Lev 11:44 and Mt 5:48. Unfortunately, this call to holiness was thought before Vatican Two to belong to clerics and religious in the Church. But Chapter V of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium discusses the Universal Call to Holiness in the following words:
" ...all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; ...They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor."
But what does it mean to be holy as our heavenly father is holy? The first reading and the gospel of today presents this in terms of actions. On the part of the first reading, it presents to us restrictions (the do nots): don't steal, deceit, fraud, profane God's name, keep the wages of others back, be unjust, slander, hate, be angry, etc. But the gospel presents holiness not in terms of what we should not do but what we should do. It does so in line with the corporal works of mercy (Mt 25:31-46, in the story of the last judgment). Avoiding the "don'ts" and reaching out to the needs of others can help us greatly towards holiness. In the same light, I will like to observe that holiness has to do with setting no boundaries to a law just as our heavenly Father doesn't. For example, our heavenly Father sets no boundaries when it comes to love, mercy and compassion. He is open to all who turn to him. That is true holiness. When St Peter says judge without favouritism like your father (1 Pet 1:16), he is refering to another dimension of what holiness entails.
Dear friends in Christ, the discussion on holiness is a hot potatoes on the table. Looking at the life of the saints, the struggled to be holy was their daily task. In this light, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke on the Universal Call to Holiness during his General Audience of Wednesday, 13 April 2011, saying: "...The saints expressed in various ways the powerful and transforming presence of the Risen One. They let Jesus so totally overwhelm their life that they could say with St Paul “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). This indeed is true holiness; that it is no longer my ideas but that of Christ, no longer my will but that of Christ.
The call to holiness was addressed few years ago also by Pope Francis. He did so on 19th March 2018 in his apostolic letter Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad). The exhortation is a call to holiness in today’s world, and not meant to be a treatise on holiness but rather a “call to holiness in a practical way for our own time with its risks, challenges and opportunities where “the Lord has chosen each one of us to ‘be holy and blameless before him in love’ (Eph 1:4), and to “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:12).
The concluding words from the above apostolic exhortation shows us that to be holy as our heavenly Father brings us many blessings. James 1:14 let us to understand that holiness helps us to be fully developed, complete and not deficient in anyway.
May we all strive during this Lenten season to be holy as God is holy.
- Fr. E Rinda