Excursus on Becoming Holy

[Please excuse these digressions from meditations on John.  They reflect the Holy Spirit’s marvelous freedom and generous gifts of insights wherever and whenever He likes.  The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. [Jn 3:8][1] They are flowers picked in the Garden of Paradise as we wander about holding his hand.  They are also a reminder to me that we are not in a hurry to “accomplish,” to “complete the task,” to “finish the job.”  We have all eternity to sit back and enjoy the ride.]

From the beginning, God destined us and calls us to be holy.  This is iterated in the Hebrew Scriptures where God identifies himself as our God and as holy, which He gives as the reason we should keep ourselves holy: For I, the LORD, am your God. You shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy. [Lev 11:44; 20:7,26]

Jesus himself rephrases the command: So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Mt 5:48][2]  Peter echoes his Master in his first letter: As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy.” [1 Pet 1:16]

However, simultaneously Paul bluntly points out that we are not holy.  On the contrary, we are all sinners: there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. [Rom 3:22-23]  Indeed, he admits that this is his own condition: So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. [Rom 7:17-19]

So how to reconcile God’s direct command, iterated by Jesus, that we are to be holy, perfect, totally effectively merciful when we are caught in the web of sin, the maelstrom of evil in our world.  Paul points out two stages to this metamorphosis.

First, God sent his Son to die for us, the ungodly, the unholy: For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly…But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. [Rom 5:6,8]

Second, God himself makes us perfectly holy.  All that is required on our part is to cooperate, to ask Him in, to pray that He works his miracle on us.  For this, Paul prays with perfect faith and confidence: May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Thes 5: 23]

This is another echo of Mary’s unto me [Lk 1:38] of Jesus’ not my will but Yours be done [Lk 22:42 Mt 6:10]. I need to learn to Let Go and Let God.  I need to believe that He truly loves me, has had active mercy on me from the moment of my conception, wishes me to evolve into being truly in His image, after His likeness [Gen 1:26], which He has described as Holy.

With Paul, therefore, I affirm my belief, my faith, my trust in God that He will do what He says: The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it. [1 Thes 5: 24]  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Luke’s version of the same phrases substitutes “merciful” for “perfect;” this substantiates Thomas’ position that “God’s mercy is ‘effective,’ not ‘affective.’ In other words, His mercy is expressed in the positive action that His love takes to remedy the miseries and meet the needs of His creatures, communicating to them a share in His own perfections….Aquinas writes (ST I.21.3): “To feel sad about another’s misery is no attribute of God, but to drive it out is supremely His, and by misery here we mean any sort of defect. Defects are not done away with save by an achievement of goodness, and as we have said, God is the first source of goodness.” Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Nov 11, 2005), “Aquinas Defines Divine Mercy,” DM 101: Week 19, Divine Mercy Library, The Divine Mercy, http://thedivinemercy.org/library/article.php?NID=2213



One thought on “Excursus on Becoming Holy”

  1. I came across this insight by Richard Rohr: We have for too long confused holiness with innocence, whereas holiness is actually mistakes overcome and transformed, not necessary mistakes avoided. Here, here!!!!

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