Sunday, February 23, 2014
You are holy...and are called to be holier: 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
I would like to begin with a quiz. To answer, simply raise your hand. (Don’t worry, no judging!) If you think you are holy, please raise your hand. [No hands are raised.]
You are all incorrect. I should see everyone’s hand in the air, because you are holy. Being holy simply means being set apart. By the very fact that you are baptized and at Mass means that you are holy. St. Paul says as much: “…the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” I didn’t ask, “Who is the holiest?” (that wouldn’t be wise and it wouldn’t be me). That said, we should strive to be holier.
We heard two similar lines in both Leviticus and Matthew: “Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy,” and, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” While nearly identical, they had much different results with their audience. For the author of Leviticus, to be holy was to fulfill the 613 laws to maintain religious and ritual purity. Yet Jesus came to fulfill the law, and taught that being holy was to love.
In a specific way, we are called to love God first, then our neighbor, and then ourselves. Now a lot could be said on each one, so I would like to encourage you with a few simple thoughts for each.
First, the greatest way we show our love of God is in our prayer. Here I was struck by Matthew Kelly’s book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic (the same author who wrote Rediscover Catholicism which we gave you last Lent). He writes that we Catholics talk a lot about prayer but rarely teach someone how to pray. Here is one way to pray, and everyone here can do it. And as a bonus it would only take three minutes a day. Just three minutes. Give God the first minute of the day. As soon as you wake up, thank God for another day to be alive and ask Him to be with you. Then, take one minute to talk to God during the day. Is it a good one? Challenging? What are you doing? Let Him know. And finally, give God the last minute of your day. Before bed, spend one minute thanking God for the gifts He gave—food, water, work, family, etc. Try this for a week and take baby steps forward in your prayer life by adding a minute here and a minute there.
Second, we are must love our neighbor. Mother Teresa reminds us that we are not necessarily called to do great things—like being a missionary in China—but are called to do the normal things with great love. While Jesus shows us that our neighbor includes even enemies, strangers and the poor, love of neighbor begins at home. Do small activities with great love—dishes, cleaning your room or snow blowing (and there is plenty of opportunity for that now).
Finally, we have to love ourselves. St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” To be holy requires treating our bodies as God’s temple. As my Mother always says, “Garbage in, garbage out” and this refers both to your mind and your body. What do you put in your mind? What do you watch on television or do on your cell phone? What is your diet like? Do you exercise? Being physically and mentally healthy is one feature of being holy as it honors the body God has given.
As Jesus fulfills the Law, he teaches us that it is love, and not simply following rules, that makes us holy. I pray that you will love God, your neighbor and yourselves well this week in your quest for holiness.