Sunday, September 24, 2017

What Does it Mean to be Holy?

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written; “Be holy because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:14-15 (NIV)

One of the first things I’ve learned in seminary that holy (or sanctified) doesn’t mean perfect, except when referring to God. To be holy means to be set apart from something else - to be distinct. God is set so far apart from anything else, He is ultra, super duper, beyond comprehension holy. He is perfect.

So, please reread today’s scripture replacing the word holy with ‘set apart’.

With the understanding that you are distinct because you are made in God’s image and He is unlike anything else, read this story about two friends, Lax and Thomas, taken from Thomas’s autobiography*. At the time, Thomas was a graduate student studying English at Columbia University in NYC. I quote:

Lax and I were walking down Sixth Avenue one night in the spring. The street was all torn up and trenched and banked high with dirt and marked out with red lanterns where they were digging the subway, and we picked our way along the fronts of the dark little stores, going downtown to Greenwich Village. I forget what we were arguing about, but in the end Lax suddenly turned around and asked me the question:

“What do you want to be, anyway?”

I could not say, “I want to be Thomas Merton the well-known writer of all those book reviews in the back pages of the Times Book Review,” or “Thomas Merton the assistant instructor of Freshman English at the New Life Social Institute for Progress and Culture,” so I put the thing on the spiritual plan, where I knew it belonged and said:

“I don’t know; I guess what I want is to be a good Catholic.”

“What do you mean, you want to be a good Catholic?”

The explanation I gave was lame enough, and expressed my confusion, and betrayed how little I had really thought about it at all.

Lax did not accept it.

“What you should say” – he told me – “what you should say is that you want to be a saint.”

A saint! The thought struck me as a little weird. I said:

“How do you expect me to become a saint?”

“By wanting to,” said Lax, simply.

“I can’t be a saint,” I said, “I can’t be a saint.” And my mind darkened with a confusion of realities and unrealities: the knowledge of my own sins, and the false humility which makes men say that they cannot do things that they must do, cannot reach the level that they must reach: the cowardice that says: “I am satisfied to save my soul, to keep out of mortal sin,” but which means, by those words: “I do not want to give up my sins and my attachments.”

But Lax said:

“No. All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

With your cooperation, God will make you holy. (tweet this)

Does being holy feel impossible?
Does it help to think about being holy as being set apart for God?
Do you believe God can make you holy?
Will you agree to let Him try?

*The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton

#SeedsofScripture #ThomasMerton #Iwanttobeasaint

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