Who said a Catholic has to be good?
It has been a while since I have felt this call to holiness. Every attempt to move in that direction has left me found woefully failing. So, I began to settle with second best, telling myself that I am a good person and God will understand.
How often have we justified so many failings in our moral life by telling ourselves that we are good people who do good? We revel in the fact that second place is someplace and if we are to slip into heaven as Catholics then we can parade our ‘goodness certificate’ at the pearly gates. But that is a fatal mistake if not a hellish one.
A rich young ruler once addressed Jesus as a ‘good master.’ In his response, Jesus said, “No one is good but God himself.” But while only God is good, the Bible tells us in Leviticus 20:26 that ‘God is holy’ and not just good and that we are called to be ‘holy’ just as God is. Leviticus also tells us that we are commanded to be holy because God has ‘separated us from other people.’ God has separated us not so that we may run around with a chip on our shoulder but we have been separated so that we will ‘be his.’
The Greek word ‘hagios’ translated as holy, does not indicate that we are ‘sanctified’ but rather as Leviticus tells us, holiness means to be separated or to be different. So, a Catholic, by his or her very calling, must be holy, must be different and must be separated, in order to serve God. Christ has called those who want to be His disciples to be “in the world, but not of the world.”
So, let us address the malaise of many Catholics who give themselves ‘goodness certifications’ because the call to holiness is way too challenging for them. Goodness won’t get you into heaven because heaven is not merely some ‘good place’ but heaven is ‘holy’ and nothing unholy can be in the presence of Almighty God. So quit certifying yourself, quit consoling yourself. God wants us to be Holy, not just goody two shoes who contributed to building a Church.
The movement to holiness begins with addressing our sins. Remember that heaven has a dress code (even if our Churches are too afraid to enforce one) and those invited to the banquet must be dressed in the right robes of holiness. Addressing our sin begins at the confessional and this must be frequent even if some clergyman dissuades you from coming every week or tells you it’s okay not to confess your trivial sins. Every sin is a sin, no matter what any clergyman may say.
Holiness is not just an intention in your heart. It needs physical acts that may seem superficial at first but lead us eventually to a habit. Habits are formed and the habit of daily mass, daily rosary, morning and night prayers, confession, pious practices, pilgrimages, reading and imitating the lives of saints and the daily reading of the sacred scriptures; these and many more begin the life of holiness.
For those who argue that you live busy lives, guess what! These demands that holiness calls us to, these acts of piety and prayer will just make your life even more demanding. But that is the price that holiness demands; to drop everything in order to embrace the pearl of great price.
Some may argue that holiness is a matter of the heart and that is true but what is in the heart is always manifested in the action and if the actions do not reflect the heart, then this argument rings hollow.
I am making a case for holiness in thought, word and deed so that we may encourage each other to live for heaven. Being good may be good for some but not for God, for he has made it clear that he is Holy and his dwelling place is holy and if heaven is what we truly desire then there is no way in unless we live that call to holiness.
NB Your comments are most welcome. Please keep the discussion civil. Do share this article with others even if you think they will disagree. You just might be the agent that God is using to touch and transform a life.