Thursday, February 7, 2019

Are we worthy of holiness?

As I went through the readings for the fifth Sunday in Ordinary time, a few things were resonating with me.  I felt throughout all the readings there was this common theme of unworthiness.  I felt it when Isaiah cried out “woe is me, I am doomed, for I am an unclean man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips”.  I felt it from Paul in his letter to the Corinthians when he says “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”.  Lastly I noticed it in Luke’s gospel when Simon Peter falls at the knees of Jesus and says “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man”.  

I’m not sure if anyone has had the opportunity to read our parish Christmas gift “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity” by Matthew Kelly.  It’s a very good read and I highly recommend it.  In it Kelly explores that same theme about how unworthy or rather unholy we all might feel and how that feeling paralyzes us in our daily lives.  Kelly says, “The great majority of modern Christians don’t actually believe holiness is possible.” “This lie is diabolical in its subtlety. There is evil genius in its effectiveness.”  Why is Kelly saying this?  He is saying this because this thinking makes us feel unworthy, imperfect and therefore unable to achieve happiness in ourselves, assist our neighbors and give glory to God.  So what do we do?  Do we just throw up our hands and give up?  Do we fall at the feet of Jesus and push him away wallowing in our own imperfections?  This is not how God wants us to be.  He wants us to be happy and He wants us to love Him and love one another.  So yes we are imperfect and flawed and we sin.  But as we see in this week’s readings God has offered a kind of “exit strategy” out of this false catastrophic thinking.  In Isaiah God sends an angel with an ember from the altar that purifies Isaiah’s unclean spirit…ah salvation and relief.  Saint Paul in his infinite wisdom recognizes that yes indeed he has sinned and as he puts it “by the Grace of God I am what I am” and then he further goes on to say that God’s grace has been very effective.   Wow what a great and easy solution, grace from God and it’s so easy to get.  We receive grace in our sacraments, when we receive communion, when we go to confession it’s truly God’s gift to us.  Celebrate it! Enjoy it!  It’s there for you!

Our God is a happy God and he wants us to be happy.  We never hear God say, “I’ll be happy when…”  He never says I’ll be happy when my people worship me or I’ll be happy when my people reject evil in the world and so on.  By that same philosophy, we shouldn’t be caught up in the “I’ll be happy when” game either.  I’ll be happy when I pay off my debt, I’ll be happy when I lose weight, I’ll be happy when I pass that test or complete that project etc.  No, God wants you to be happy now and he wants you to live and love one another joyfully.  You are worthy of his grace, you can be holy, and you can live out the gospel joyfully.

Now I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’m as bad as Saint Paul was during his persecuting days.  He certainly abused and persecuted Christians and yet today he is called a Saint.  Paul didn’t even think he was worthy of the title apostle imagine what he’d think of himself being known as saint today.  If that’s not grace in action, I don’t know what is.  We may not go through such a transformation as Paul and people in the future may not call us “saint” but we can certainly do our small part to create holy moments that show our love for one another, our love of our “happy” God and our worthiness of his gift of grace.

Reflection by Mary Juliano Hayes

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