Blog # 293 ...be HOLY
During the past couple of days I have been reflecting upon what it means for us to be holy. In my concordance I found hundreds of references using the word holy. I did not have enough time to read them all. One in particular from Leviticus 11: 44 attracted my attention: "I the Lord, am your God and you shall make yourselves and keep yourselves holy because I am holy." My reflection had begun with a desire on my part to review and further clarify the meaning in our Catholic faith of what we know in theology as the gift of Sanctifying Grace, the supernatural gift that makes us holy.
The immediate reference in Leviticus is to the command of God for His people not to be contaminated by eating food that would be designated by God as "unclean". Through their obedience they would be uniting themselves with God's desire, an experience that fits very easily into the definition of love.
In Luke 6: 36 Jesus tells His disciples they are to "be merciful just as your Father is merciful". Then we have Jesus praying to the Father in John's Gospel ( 17: 20-23,26): " I pray that all may be one, as we are one...I living in them, you living in me...that their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you
loved them as you loved me...To them I have revealed your name..so that your love for me may be in them, and I may live in them !". And in John 14:23 Jesus says: "Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with Him.: In our Catholic theology these and similar texts apply to the gift of Sanctifying Grace, a share in God's divine life in a limited and human way, making us holy and, given by God in the Sacrament of Baptism, lost or distorted by the betrayal of sin.
At the entrance of all our Catholic churches is a font of blessed water. It is intended to be a reminder of our Baptism to all of us coming into the church. Dipping our hand into the water and making the sign of the Cross is an invitation to renew our faith in the meaning and effect of our Baptism. Born in a deeply faithful family, my Baptism occurred when I was just three weeks old. Two of my cousins came with their families from the Bronx and from Brooklyn to be my Godparents.
As in the experience of my natural birth three weeks before, so now in the experience of my second birth 'from above', I had nothing to do with it but to be there. I could not buy it. It could not be earned. It was a gift, by nature something that could only be received. I was to receive the gift of new life, born from above, God's love within me, a gift that only God could offer. All I had to do was grow up and believe in it, to make God's love my own, to be holy, compassionate, merciful, loved as the Father loves Jesus, called and appointed to do God's will in union with Jesus for the rest of my life on earth and into eternity!
Though the sounds of in meant nothing to me that first day of my new-born life in Jesus, the priest said in Latin as he poured the water over my head: "Charles Matthew, I Baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." If he did it correctly he did not say "Amen", as we usually do whenever the Divine Persons come together in prayer. I have always interpreted this official omission of the Amen in the Baptismal rite as a deliberate choice on the part of the Church to offer the person being Baptized an invitation and opportunity of consciously and freely living out the new identity he or she receives through the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism as a member of the Church, a branch on the Vine, enlivened and made holy with the presence of our living God within us.
Amen means yes. At my present age, and starting at about the age of four or five I probably have responded to that call., unwittingly perhaps at times but yet really, a minimum of sixty thousand times!
Praying the Amen! of our Baptism could be compared to signing a contract with a manufacturing Company of a pro ball team, making a commitment to do a certain thing for the Company or the team, to keep myself up on the development of the business or to keep myself in the physical shape that will permit me to play the game the best I can. In response to my commitment, the Company or the team grant me identified benefits. The Baptismal Yes-prayer has power. In times of temptation, Help me. Lord. Amen! In times of joy, Thank You Lord, Amen! In times of sorrow, Be with me, Lord. Amen! In the morning, Amen! At the end of the day: Amen! At the final conscious act of my life and the instant of my death : I come to do Your will, O Lord. Amen!.