Grace to you!
You may have heard this expression: "Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are."
One may argue as to the truth-value of the statement. Yet, it doesn't eliminate the reality that: "Birds of the same feather flock together."
God speaks in every generation and circumstance. Far back in the Book of Leviticus, God announced details of ritual and moral regulations for the chosen people, Israel. He forewarned against the impact of negative associations. “Be holy for, I the Lord, your God am Holy” (Lev 19:2).
קֹדֶשׁ (Qodesh), which is the Hebrew word used for "holy" in the text, literarily means "being set apart" (apartness). The concept was equally translated in Latin as "consecro, consecrare" meaning, "to make sacred or dedicate." A similar sense is understood. Namely, it's being set apart from "something" and being set apart for "something" (dedicated to God). It entails, sort of, being different in a good way.
So when God told the people of the Old Testament to be holy as He is holy, wasn't He asking them to be different as He is different? If so, why would God ask them to be different, be set apart? Does God want them to be estranged people, isolated and out of touch personalities? Doesn't God want us to live in good relationship with our neighbors in every society we, as believers, find ourselves? Was the "being set apart" a mere sociological structure of separation or something different?
These are good questions. Nonetheless, they aren't the implication of God's word and the universal call to holiness, a theme taken up in fresh light by the Lord Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:48). The Lord says: "You must, therefore, be perfect [some translations add the descriptive "in your love"] as your heavenly Father is perfect." Other translations use "love" instead of "perfect," since the meaning, in this context, is synonymous.
Following the tradition of the Lord, the Church emphasizes the same theme. She inspires all to respond to the universal call to holiness (see the Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, chapter 5).
Being holy implies not following the path of unethical, immoral, and unGodly thoughts and actions. It is, more importantly, about dedication to the service of God and one another. It is commitment to love, mercy and justice, and other virtues. It begins with faith and discipleship of the Holy Lord. The believer's holiness is God. Hence, holiness is life in God. It is a life of pure love. It is when the love of the Lord, and one another, inspires all we do.
Our associations with anyone shouldn't be that of assimilation of their sinful behaviors. Relating to them shouldn't make us complicit to their worldliness. We are set apart from the ways of the world so we can be engrafted, attached to the love, mercy, forgiveness, purity, and grace of God. We belong to God, whose temple, as Saint Paul writes, "we are" (I Cor 3:16).
Holiness isn't by our power, but by God's grace. Holiness is, actually, a person, God in the Trinity of Love. We can't achieve it by our power. It's by God's grace who tells us: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." "Be holy as I am holy."
God doesn't merely tell us what to do. He equips us with all the graces (the inner germ) we need to do what He says and become what we should for glory. His Word, which is grace, makes us act right and become glorified.
The Lord says: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).
Praying, we grow and mature in love and knowledge of God, so our life will be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[7th Sunday Ordinary Time A. Lev 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48]
Photo from Lora Tapias, Cathopic.com.
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.