Another effort entirely dependent on a little help from my friends at PRCL...without whom I would still be staring at the blankest of blank screens. Too tired to think more tonight, - we'll simply have to hope and pray that the Spirit lends some wings tomorrow morning.
Last week, on Trinity Sunday, we marvelled together
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty”
Today too we are asked to consider holiness
One holy catholic and apostolic church
His holiness the Pope…or even the Dalai Lama…
If I say the word "holy" to you, I wonder what images come to mind. My guess is that your first thought would be of some place or some person, whom you perceive as different in a particular and special way…somewhere or someone wonderful, maybe remote,surely set apart from all that is mundane.
There’s even a rather lovely worship song “Purify my heart…” which has as its chorus “My heart’s one desire is to be holy…I choose to be holy, set apart for you Lord”
And when we hear the opening of our Old Testament reading today, what are
the images that come to mind?
"Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel
and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'"
But just how are they to be holy?
By going to services in the temple and getting the worship just right?
By saying their prayers regularly in the most authentic version possible?
Or by fasting? By reading their scriptures? By contemplating God through meditation or
Well, no…when it comes down to it, the holiness we are called to is rather different. Listen.
"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God."
This is uncompromisingly practical, it’s about what you do when you
harvest the fields, when you are taking the fruits of your labour and your property. You are not to exploit your resources as if you are the only one in the world. You are never to assert that charity begins at home.
You are to leave something for the poor and foreigners, who have nothing with which to pay you. They must have some of your harvest for free. That is "holy".
Being holy then is not about retreating from the world into contemplation or higher thoughts, but about everyday life. It is a choice, not a state of mind…You “do” holiness, for it is about loving your neighbour as much as you love yourself.
And this is the theme that Jesus picks up in our gospel reading today, part of the sermon on the mount. What does it mean to love one's neighbour as oneself? And how far do I have to extend that idea of my neighbour?
This is where it gets really scary, because Jesus says that there is no
"Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn
the other also."
Being neighbourly is usually taken as being friendly. But we are to
treat as neighbours those who are unfriendly, even those who oppose us or speak against us, or offer us violence.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
That is being holy, praying not for ourselves but for our enemies, in the
middle of conflict and difficulty. Holiness has less to do with rarefied acts of worship and more to do with Jimmy Mizen’s mother saying that she is praying for those who killed her boy, and for their parents too.
This is holy, because this is how God is..
"He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous."
God is the ultimate good neighbour, for whatever people do he sends blessings.
Perhaps this is what makes God holy?
That amid all the ugliness, the violence, and the brokenness of life, he simply and consistently offers us nothing but love.
That is certainly out of the ordinary…
And of course, that is our challenge.
If we sing, with fervent intensity
“I choose to be holy”…then we have to understand what that entails.
Could we ever respond to all the setbacks of life, the attacks from other people, the tragedies and disasters, only with love, mercy, compassion? That, says Jesus, is where perfection lies, where holiness is to be found.
"Be perfect," he says, "as your heavenly Father is perfect."