Are you holy? That is a question that might be uncomfortable for some of us to answer. If you say “yes”, you don’t want others to assume that you think you’re better than they are. People resent someone with a “holier than thou” attitude. But, for each of us as Catholics, that is exactly what we are called to be.
One of the Vatican II documents, Lumen Gentium speaks of the “universal call to holiness”. As baptized Christians, we are equal in dignity before God and called to be holy. Today’s readings follow the theme of this “universal call to holiness”. In today’s 1st reading from Leviticus, God tells Moses to “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples … “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we heard today, he reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us, and our bodies are holy.
So, how to we become holy, and continue to be holy? Today’s Gospel gives us several suggestions, but they are not easy. In the Gospel. Jesus tells his disciples “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.” He also tells us to ‘go the extra mile’ for those who need our help. “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
There are many practical ways we strive for holiness in our everyday lives. For example: Adults teaching the young; passing on the faith to the next generation. Or, students: learning and cultivating our mind to glorify God. Tending to the weak or suffering, or those in need (donating to the Food Pantry, Hearts for Haiti, visiting nursing homes, taking Communion to shut-ins). Tending the earth (gardening). Keeping the earth clean (re-cycling, Adopt-a-Plot), etc.
So, are you holy? Yes! I’ll bet you are a lot holier than you think you are. And with Lent approaching, the Lord gives us 40 days to focus on how to answer God’s call to holiness.
Tony Cooper-Stewardship and Development