Teaching Call to Holiness Part Two

By 10:38 AM

1. Eph. 1:3-6 "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens! God chose us in him before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love; he likewise predestined us through Christ Jesus to be his adopted sons --such was his will and pleasure--that all might praise the glorious favor he has bestowed on us in his beloved."

2. 1 Pet. 1:15 "Rather, 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.'"

3. 1 Thess. 4:3, 7 "It is God's will that you grow in holiness....God has not called us to immorality but to holiness."

4. Mt. 5:48 "In a word, you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

We become holy not through our natural powers but by the grace of God. Holiness is a sharing in the divine life of God. It is a gift bestowed upon the first man and woman after creation. They were made in the image and likeness of God: human beings naturally endowed with the gift of knowing and the gift of freedom to choose.

"Our freedom is real but limited; its absolute and unconditional origin is not in itself, but in the life within which it is situated and which represents for it both a limitation and a possibility. Human freedom belongs to us as creatures; it is a freedom which is given as a gift, one to be received like a seed and to be cultivated responsibly. It is an essential part of that creaturely image which is the basis of the dignity of the person. Within that freedom there is an echo of the primordial vocation whereby the Creator calls man to the true Good, and even more, through Christ's Revelation, to become his friend and to share his own divine life. It is at once inalienable self-possession and openness to all that exists, in passing beyond self to knowledge and love of the other. Freedom then is rooted in the truth about man, and it is ultimately directed towards communion." (Veritatis Splendor #86)

But even though human beings were made in the image and likeness of God, as such they could not share in the life of God. So they were sanctified, raised to the level of adopted children, sharing the divine life of the Trinity. This was pure, unmerited gift of the highest order. Now we have human beings who were naturally gifted to know and to choose good or evil and who were supernaturally gifted to share in the divine life of God.

We know that even though man and woman were gifted naturally and supernaturally, under the force of temptation, they misused their freedom. This is what sin is: to use one's freedom in a way contrary to its purpose and destiny.

"According to Christian faith and the Church's teaching, 'only the freedom which submits to the Truth leads the human person to his true good. The good of the person is to be in the Truth and to do the Truth.'" (VS #84)

"Reason and experience not only confirm the weakness of human freedom; they also confirm its tragic aspects. Man comes to realize that his freedom is in some mysterious way inclined to betray this openness to the True and the Good, and that all too often he actually prefers to choose finite, limited and ephemeral goods. What is more, within his errors and negative decisions, man glimpses the source of a deep rebellion, which leads him to reject the Truth and the Good in order to set himself up as an absolute principle unto himself." (VS #86)

Because human freedom is not absolute and perfect, it too needs to be set free, to be brought to greater perfection, to be reordered and properly focused. We can not do this ourselves. Only Christ, the True Man and True God, the One who is totally free, can set us free. "When Christ freed us, he meant us to stay free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit to the yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1)

Christ frees us by revealing the truth to us and by revealing that he is the Truth, the Way and the Life. The more we embrace the truth as revealed by God as the Good for us, the more we will experience authentic freedom. On the other hand, when we accept the lie as the truth, then our freedom is comprised and we live not in the truth but in falsehood, leading to sin.

The evil one spoke the lie to our ancestors as if it were the truth. The lie: "You will not die. You will be like God, knowing good and evil." Choosing to believe the lie as truth and acting on this belief by choosing to disobey God, led to the lost of freedom in the presence of God.

Jesus came to set us free from the kingdom of lies. "You will know the Truth and the truth will set you free." (Jn 8:32) Embracing the truth of revelation, even in the context of mystery, keeps us in the light and not in the darkness.

Freedom is acquired in love, that is, in the gift of self. What our ancestors would not do was to die to self as an expression of true freedom. "What about me?...What's in it for me?...I don't want to be in relationship to the Other. I want to be equal to the Other...Even more, I want to be the Other." When the I is the center of our universe and not God, then we become slaves to self and not free people. Like Esau, we sell our inheritance for a bowl of pottage or like Judas, we betray our most intimate relationship with the one who truly loves us for thirty pieces of silver.

Christ came to set us free from the slavery to sin and death through the greatest example of the gift of self. First in word, he said: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends." (Jn 15:13). Then in action, he embraced the cross in total obedience and love. Through this gift of self, the gift of his life, he brought us back into life with God. He gave his life that we may have life, life to the fullest. Jesus crucified is the gift of self in service to God and to us.

"In the house of the Lord, slavery is free. It is free because it serves not out of necessity, but out of charity....Charity should make you a servant, just as truth has made you free...You are at once both a servant and free: a servant, because you have become such; free, because you are loved by God your Creator; indeed, you have also been enabled to love your Creator...You are a servant of the Lord and you are a freedman of the Lord. Do not go looking for a liberation which will lead you far from the house of your liberator." (St. Augustine)

In the Sacrament of Baptism we personally experienced the liberation from sin and death. We were immersed in the life of God and set forth on the path that leads to fullness of this eternal life we now share with God.

"God is rich in mercy; because of his great love for us he brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin. By this favor your were saved. Both with and in Christ Jesus he raised us up and gave us a place in the heavens....It is owing to his favor that salvation is yours through faith. This is not your own doing., it is God's gift." (Eph 2:4-8)

As we came into the greater awareness of this gift, we also came into the greater awareness of personal sin in our lives. Maybe for a while we were not aware of the relationship we had been given by God because of his infinite love. Maybe for a while sin dominated us; we misused the freedom given to us a sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of the Lord and living temples of the Holy Spirit. Jesus may have been a person who lived centuries ago, but not really relevant in our lives today. Others had greater influence in our day to day activities.

Then the grace of God broke through in our lives as it did in the life of Paul. We call this the grace of conversion, which led to repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus as Lord of our lives. We recaptured the freedom given us in baptism.

We come to realize more clearly that it is our faith relationship with and in the Crucified and Risen Christ which enables us to live morally and rightly before and in union with God. It is our faith in Christ who has shared his life with us which enables and empowers us to "walk as children of the light." It is this faith which is a light giving us the necessary insight to do what is pleasing to the Lord.

"Faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out. a word, in any event, is not truly received until it passes into action, until it is put into practice. Faith is a decision involving one's whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and of life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. It entails an act of trusting abandonment to Christ, which enhances us to live as he lived, in profound love of God and of our brothers and sisters." (VS #88)

"Faith gives rise to and calls for a consistent life commitment; it entails and brings to perfection the acceptance and observance of God's commandments....Through the moral life, faith becomes 'confession', not only before God but also before men: it becomes witness. 'You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may se your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.'....Christ's witness is the source, model and means for the witness of his disciples, who are called to walk on the same road: 'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" (VS #89)

The witness we are called to give is that of service. This new freedom we have in the Lord entails service of the Lord and one another. Like Christ, our true identity and destiny is "not to be served but to serve," and to give our life in the service of others for their good. What Paul addressed to Christian slaves in his letter to the Ephesians, we can apply to ourselves: "Do not render service for appearance only and to please men, but do God's will with your whole heart as slaves of Christ. Give your service willingly, doing it for the Lord rather than men." (Eph 6:6-7)

"None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as is servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lord's." (Rom 14:7-8)

The exercise of freedom in the Lord is further witnessed in the gift of obedience to the will of the Father. Where our ancestors said: "I will not obey", Christ has said and his disciples are to say: "I have come to do the will of my Father."

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