Every Brand has been designed/ developed and created with unique qualities that make them stand out. Example: In the case of a Mercedes Benz, the car is known for its finesse & engineering excellence. Now, if the brand no longer displays the original, unique qualities that it stands for, then it can no longer be considered faithful to its originally intended brand image. So, for example, if Mercedes Benz started using cheap parts instead of the finest auto parts, also began reducing the price so that it becomes more affordable, and made cars that are tacky & not comfortable, it would then lose its uniqueness and the purpose for which it was created. So if there is a lesson that we can learn from the above example, it is that if a brand no longer possesses its original uniqueness and qualities that it was originally designed with, then, it has lost its purpose. The brand would then be totally rejected. Similarly, a Christian is created unique in the image and likeness of God. This calls us to be like him, failing this; we are living a life contrary to our calling. What will losing our purpose lead to? Being frustrated, empty, frequent ups and downs and being limited to what I see before me.
To understand better our calling, let us examine the scripture passage of the year that God has given us. As He who called you is Holy, be Holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written,
“You shall be Holy, for I am Holy” ~ 1 Peter 1:15 – 16
So we see that Holiness is the very nature of God and He is calling us to be like Him, ‘Holy‘! It has been God’s call as He formed the nation of Israel (Leviticus 11:44-45), it has been what Jesus lived out and taught (Matthew 5:48) and what St. Peter echoes in his letter as a call to the church (1 Peter 1:15-16).
The word ‘Holiness‘ is not completely understood by many of us Catholics. We tend to equate holiness merely with being good, or being pious. We can do all these things and still live very unHoly lives. The CCC 2013 defines Holiness as, ‘the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of charity‘.
“Charity is the soul of holiness to which all are called: it governs shapes and perfects all the means of sanctification,” CCC 826.
So we see that holiness, in the real sense, doesn’t just mean doing good & performing pious activities (like going for Mass on Sundays, reading the Bible, giving tithes – as important & an integral part of Christianity as these are). Rather, holiness is striving towards perfect love for God and neighbor. The real indicator of us living out our call to holiness is seen by the fruit we bear. Last year, God called us to acknowledge who He really is. We spent time reflecting on various attributes of God. God is loving, pure, merciful, just, etc.
This year God is calling us to be like Him. These attributes of our God must be reflected by us in our dealings with our neighbor.
Holiness is more than being a practicing Catholic
- We could be going for mass & saying the rosary, but that is still just a part of what God is calling us to do.
- We can be using all the gifts of the Spirit, but we could still not be living the life a true Christian is called upon to live.
- We might be manifesting the various charismatic gifts of the Spirit (viz. healing the sick, casting out demons, prophesying, etc.), but these are still not necessarily the attributes of a true Christian. The Word of God has a great illustration of this in Matthew 7: 22-23, where Jesus says:
Notice the text of Matthew 7: 23 – Jesus calls those who displayed these charismatic gifts ‘evildoers‘. Not because these gifts are evil, but because the people who performed these miracles were evil.
- We might be involved in doing great things – organizing evangelization rallies, writing Christian songs, being part of Christian ministries like the Music Ministry, Household Servant, a Programme Servant, etc. but these are not necessarily what qualify us to be “Holy“.
- Similarly, as a community, we in CFCI may be performing a great deal of Godly activities – we may be conducting CLS’s, organizing evangelization rallies, being part of households etc., but these aren’t necessarily the signs of a community that is living as per the commandments of God.
Micah 6:10 says, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Misconceptions of Holiness
- Holiness is a big word and too difficult to pursue. It’s not for me.
- Holiness is reserved for those who have cut themselves off from the world like priests and nuns, full time missionaries etc.
- Holiness is for the saints who have specially been called to a life of holiness and it comes naturally to them. It doesn’t come naturally to me so my life cannot conform to that. I am not called to be so holy.
- I may not be perfect but I am doing much more for God than most people around me. God should be pleased with me.
- Holiness means a boring life of prayer, mortification, giving up all that I like for others to enjoy. It is a joyless living.
However, the CCC 2013 states clearly that this is a call for all Christians in any state or walk of life; and so it is very much your call and mine. Throughout the history of the church we have seen men and women, young and old strive to walk in Holiness.
“All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be”. – Saint Francis de Sales
“To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone”. – Pope Francis
The Observable Marks of those living Holy lives
Now, how would we know if we are living such a life? As it was mentioned earlier, the test of our faithfulness in responding to God’s call is the ‘fruit that we bear’. And the fruit that we are speaking of here is the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit of the Spirit is mentioned in, Galatians 5: 22-23:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
On the contrary, the Word of God contrasts this fruit against the works of sinful nature mentioned in, Galatians 5: 19-21:
We need to look into our lives and ask ourselves the big question – ‘WHAT FRUIT AM I BEARING?‘
Holiness is not of our making
It is God’s work in us – more specifically, it is the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us to form us more perfectly into the image and likeness of Jesus, as God had first intended. We can never take credit for growing in holiness. Holiness cannot exist apart from a relationship with God. If holiness is God’s nature then holiness in us, is God dwelling in us and making Himself manifest in us. Holiness comes from God and so our pursuit of holiness hinges on our relationship with our Triune God.
- God our Creator and Father, the Holy One who has created us in His image and likeness to be His sons and daughters, to be Holy as He is Holy and so to experience the fullness of His life and love. To do so we need to turn to Him, trust Him, surrender to His will and obey His Word.
- Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord, who by His passion, death and resurrection has paid the price for our sins and reconciled us back to the Father. He is God’s holiness made flesh who took upon Himself our fallen nature and through His life and death on the Cross sanctified every area of our human life bringing about our redemption and restoration. His saving grace is now available to us so we can live Holy lives.
- The Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier, through whom the life of God in us grows and matures. The Holy Spirit anointed Jesus in His humanity and gave Him the power to be Holy like the Father for each moment of His earthly existence. The same Holy Spirit brings us His sanctifying grace making it possible with our co-operation to truly become Holy as Jesus is Holy. St. Paul describes the process of being made Christ-like in terms of bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
In the beginning He created us to be Holy like him. At the end he intends us to be Holy like him in his Holy presence forever. And so now He is in the process of drawing us deeper into union with Him and his holiness.
This then is our call from Christ: to be Holy, that we model our lives on Christ who modelled His life on His Father (Leviticus 11:44).
The Word of God states our calling as Christians very clearly. If we read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5,
God says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you knows how to control your own body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.”
We have learnt that our call to holiness extends beyond just fulfilling a few obligations. But an authentic Holy life is marked by the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Let us spend some time examining if we are bearing the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5: 22-23.