Authentic Holiness

for March 10th, 2014
Monday of the First Week of Lent

Liturgical texts here



I OFTEN hear people say, “Oh, he’s so holy,” or “She is such a holy person.” But what are we referring to? Their kindness? A quality of meekness, humility, silence? A sense of God’s presence? What is holiness?

Today’s first reading is clear what God considers holiness to be:

Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy. “You shall not steal. You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another. You shall not swear falsely by my name…” [etc.]

For if God is love, and He says, “I am holy,” then to be one who loves is to be holy.

St. Paul calls the nuptial union of Christ and the Church “a great mystery” …holiness is measured according to the ‘great mystery’ in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to the gift of the Bridegroom. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 773

So holiness is the measure by which we love Christ who gives us the gift of His love. And this is how we are to love Him:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Holiness is keeping Christ’s commandments. And today’s Gospel gives us a precise picture of what those commandments are:

Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.

The “least brother” is certainly the beggar in the street. But is not the one starving and thirsting for truth also the least brother? What about those who have been stripped naked of their dignity? And those who are imprisoned in loneliness or sickened by sin? Yes, these too await the holy ones to come and liberate them.

However, it would be a mistake to reduce holiness to mere actions, crucial as they are. Authentic holiness also carries a hidden character, a hidden essence, and that essence is God. It is the key ingredient that transforms our works into “sacraments,” good deeds into grace. That hidden Essence is present to the degree that one loves Him. Indeed, Jesus did not only say to “love your neighour” but first of all to “love the Lord your God with all your heart….” [1]cf. Mk 12:30-31 This is what separates the social worker from the Christian, the busy bodies from the holy ones. This is what St. Paul refers to as the ‘great mystery’:

…the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. (Eph 5:31-32)

Thus, I keep Christ commandments because I want to love Him. I love Him in the least because there I find Him. And He loves me in return by leading me along the path of His will. This is what the Psalm means when it says:

The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart. The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.

Thus, living in and abiding in the Word of God (who is Christ) makes me holy. And this holiness, dear friends, is what the world so desperately needs.

“The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.” Indeed, “holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 828

Listening to Christ and worshiping Him leads us to make courageous choices, to take what are sometimes heroic decisions. Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. —BLESSED JOHN PAUL II, World Youth Day Message for 2005, Vatican City, Aug. 27th, 2004,





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1. cf. Mk 12:30-31
Posted in HOME, MASS READINGS and tagged , , , , , , , , , .