Call to Holiness Part One

By 10:29 AM

The call is from God–the response is ours

"It is God's will that you grow in holiness." (1 Thess 4:3)

The call to holiness which is from the Trinity is patterned after the life of the Triune Divine Persons. In the words of Peter: "Become holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, after the likeness of the holy One who called you; remember, Scripture says, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" (1Pet. 1:15-16)

"The good news is: Jesus is the Holy One of God; We are called to be holy and spotless; Jesus communicates, gives, presents his holiness to us. He himself is our holiness. In baptism Jesus not only passes on to us what he has but also what he is. He is holy and makes us holy; he is the Son of God and makes us children of God." (Cantalamessa, Jesus Christ: the Holy One of God p. 18-19)
The plan is from God–the acceptance is ours

This response can be conscious or unconscious; positive or negative; fully or half-heartedly given; superficial or internalized; continual or sporadic.
The grace is from God–the cooperation is ours.

To begin we must desire to be holy. St. Augustine said: "The whole life of a good Christian is a desire for holiness." But this desire is a grace from the Holy Spirit to which we respond in action. St. Bonaventure said: "This mysterious wisdom is hidden, no one knows it who has not received it, no receives it who has not desired it, and no one desires it unless already inflamed within by the Holy Spirit sent by Christ."

The Plan of God: Eph 1:4-6

The setting forth of that plan:

Creation: Out of love God gave us human life and divine life: our response–sin (non-love)

Sin wounded our human nature and left a law of sin within us and separated us from the divine life of God.

Promise of Salvation–made to Adam and Eve; brought forth in the Salvation History of the OT people.

Promise becomes a reality in the Incarnation: God became Man: Jesus

Justification/reconciliation/restoration: the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Once more human beings can share in the Divine Life through the grace of sanctification– the Gift of the Holy Spirit–Be filled with the Holy Spirit.


God’s grace: Justification

Our response: Conversion

God’s grace: Purification Eph 4:22

Our response: letting go of sin and its fruits

God’s grace: Transformation 2 Cor 18

Our response: Putting on the mind of Jesus; growing in the life of the Spirit

God’s grace: Glorification

Our response: Taking on the aroma of God.

God’s grace: Union

Our response: Yes.

Falling in love with God—Holiness and love are synonymous —Holiness flows from love. God is holy because God is love

5pt plan for holiness

Do what you are supposed to do

When you are supposed to do it

The way you are supposed to do it

To the best of your ability

For the love of God.

Piaget gave the steps to holiness:
We first act out of fear of punishment
Then hope of reward
We do something out of obligation
We choose to do this out of love of the other
We choose to act for the love of God

A young man came to the Holy Man and asked to be ordained as a rabbi. The Holy Man inquired regarding his daily conduct, and the candidate replied: "I always dress in white; I drink only water; I place tacks in my shoes for self-mortification; I roll naked in the snow; and I order the synagogue caretaker to give me forty stripes daily on my bare back." Just then a white horse entered the courtyard, drank water, and began rolling in the snow. "Observe," said the Holy Man. "This creature is white, it drinks only water, it has nails in its shoes, it rolls in the snow, and it receives more than forty stripes a day. Still it's nothing but a horse."

One day a mother and her pre-school child were walking through a church. The child was quiet taken with the sun streaming through the stained glass windows and was asking about the people represented in the windows. When the mother told her that they were saints, the little girl asked one of those unanswerable questions that fill their minds: "What is a saint?" The mother stumble, paused, and confessed that it would be rather difficult to define what saints are. Then the little girl's face lit up as she found her own answer: "I know what a saint is; a saint is one who lets the sun shine in.

God is holy; we become holy not by doing external things like the young man in the first story but by becoming, through yielding to the Lord in what we do. What we yield is our will and selfish desires so that we become open to the transforming power and presence of God. Like the stained glass window, the more transparent we are, the more we are free of the film of grim and dirt, sin and self-centeredness, the more the light and life of the Son of God can shine through us for the good of others and the glory of God.

There is a correlation between holiness and abandonment. The more we reflect dependence upon God for all things, the freer and detached we are from things. The more we are free of the bondage and addiction of sin and the more we are reconciled to God and to one another, the greater degree of holiness is experienced. But in all of this process it is God who is at work in us. As Paul prays in 1 Thess. "May he strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones....May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness." (3:13; 5:23)


There are many obstacles to holiness. Let me identify a few of them, none of which are new to any of us.

1) Unwarranted fear of being unworthy or a sense of being too great a sinner. When Peter told Jesus: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinner." Jesus responded: "Fear not." The evil one does not want to see us respond to the Lord's invitation to become holy. He makes our sinfulness an obstacle and stumbling block. He does not want us to remember that what is impossible to man is possible to God. If God calls us, he graces us.

2) Procrastination. It is the attitude of St. Augustine who told God that he wanted to be holy but not today. We will do something later in our life, but not now.

3) Lack of priorities:I would like to pray but I don't have time. I would like to read the scriptures, but there is so much to be done. Sometimes our priorities are out of order. Things that are good are not second to that which is better or best for us. We make excuses and rationalize our way out of doing what we know in our heart is what we should be doing. Rather than take the time for prayer and study, we busy ourselves. I have a friend who found it very hard to pray each day. He was so busy. I challenged him to pray at least 10 minutes a day and to increase it as time goes on. For a long time it was a struggle for him to do even the 10 minutes. Now he is doing an hour of prayer each morning. He tells me that his day goes much better now that he is spending prime time with the Lord.

4) Lack of discipline and balance. Some people go to the extreme in their spiritual activities and exercises. They try to imitate what they read in the lives of the saints, forgetting that it took the saints years to develop the degree of asceticism which we read in their biographies. It is not the quantity we do but the quality of focus we give to what we do; not the sporadic spurts now and then but the constant pace which we persevere in that makes the difference in the long run.

5) Some people have a block to anything connected to the intellectual aspect of our life, sort of anti-intellectualism. They do not see the need to study the scriptures through the reading of commentaries. They believe that all knowledge is infused knowledge, given directly by the Holy Spirit. Other people limit their reading only to the scriptures and neglect the rich heritage of our faith given to us by the spiritual masters. Both the scriptures and other spiritual writings is really the balanced approach to a proper spiritual diet.

6) Some people do not see that healthy Christian relationships are also part of the call to holiness envisioned in the New Testament. The me and Jesus focus is important but so is the we and Jesus focus. Holiness is experienced not in isolation but in contact with others. Our commitments and convictions, our resolutions and good intentions are tested in the context of community. We can love in theory but to love this person who is a challenge to us is the litmus test of our response to the call to be holy. We can say we forgive others, but when something hurtful happens to us through our relationships then we find out if we are really walking the talk.

Our attitude needs to be that of St. Paul as reflected in Phil. 3:12-16.

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