By Father James Chelich February 1992

Religion 121The Foundation The foundation of holiness is HONESTY. Jesus said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 The whole truth about ourself is where holiness begins. We pray and ask God to let us see clearly who we are and what we are. We ask God to give us the courage to face both the good and the bad, the virtuous and the sinful within us. No more playing the game of the divided heart: letting ourselves look at only our good side and pretending that we don’t have or don’t see the other; setting only our virtues before God and others and covering our vices; denying our addictions and pretending to ourselves and everyone else that we have everything under control. Like the prophet Isaiah, we come before the Lord and humbly confess: “I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah 6:5 Like Peter, the Apostle, we fall to our knees and say: “Leave me, Lord! I am a sinful man.” Luke 5:8 God has no fear of honesty. It does not offend Him. He is not put off by it. Rather than distance Himself from it, God warmly draws close to it. We are the ones that fear the truth about ourselves. We are forever trying to hide it from ourselves, from God and from everyone around us. If we are brave enough to take an honest look, we will see that fear of the truth paralyzes every one of our relationships to one extent or another. Contrary to what many people think, God is not waiting somewhere in the the wings of our existence for the right moment to pop out and condemn us. God has no interest in our condemnation, only in our freedom and in our happiness. It is true, however, that God has been waiting for something. He has been waiting long and patiently for us to face the truth about ourselves, and for us to hand Him the whole of who and what we are. This is the foundation of holiness. We are what we are. What turns this into holiness is that we are brave enough to face it honestly, and wise enough to hand it over completely to God. He takes what we hand Him and transforms it — but He has to have the whole of it! It is God who makes us holy. We do not do it for ourselves. We cannot do it for ourselves. When we freely offer it, God takes who we are and what we are and draws it to Himself — He makes it wholly His own. What God draws to Himself is changed. It is transformed by His Divine power — by Grace. Anyone that lives close to God will be transformed by His holiness, into His holiness. Our part is to develop a manner of living that demands rigorous honesty about ourselves: “By obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brothers…” 1 Peter 1:22 We devote ourselves to thorough self-examination and complete honesty. Everything we find we lift up, offer and hand over to God. “You must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire… You must put on that new person created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24 The Price At this point you probably suspect that holiness doesn’t come cheap. You’re right, it doesn’t! The real question, however, is not how much it costs, but how much you want it. How badly do you want to be free of the sins and addictions that are tearing your life apart, and from the resentments that are burning you up inside? How much to you want to find love, joy and peace in your life again? “Blessed is the person who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blest are they who hunger and thirst for holiness; they shall have their fill.” Matthew 5:6 The price of holiness is high. it will cost us the one thing we cling to the most. The price of holiness is the surrender of your Self-will. Jesus said: “If a person wishes to follow me, they must deny their very self…” Mark 8:34 Self-will is “what I want, when I want, the way I want”. It is wanting your husband or wife to be the way you want them to be, and then being disappointed when they are not. It is wanting your children or parents to do what you want them to do, and then being angry when they don’t. It is expecting things to go your way, and then getting disappointed and mad because it doesn’t. It is demanding this, that and the third thing, and then finding yourself at odds with everyone around you because they stand in the way of your demands. Self-will burdens you with a gigantic load of resentment that drains your energy and crushes your spirit; at the same time it blinds you to the fact that your burdens are of your own making — your problems will always be someone else’s fault. The surrender of your Self-will means giving up what you want, when you want it, the way you want it and exchanging it for what God wants. You surrender… I want! I expect! I demand! and you exchange it for… Lord, what are You doing, and how can I contribute to it? The moment we make the exchange, a huge load of grief is lifted from our shoulders and a great deal of pain is removed from the lives of the people with whom we live and work. Lord, what is Your will for my wife or husband? Show me how I can contribute to it. What is Your will for my children or parents? Show me what You are doing in their lives and how I can contribute to it. What is Your will in this situation? Show me what You want done and how I can contribute to it. Self-surrender was the fundamental principle of Jesus’ life: “It is not to do my own will that I have come down from heaven, but to do the will of Him who sent me.” John 6:38 It was the heart of his personal prayer: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup from me; yet not my will but Your be done.” Luke 22:42 It was the sustenance of his soul: “I have food to eat of which you do not know… Doing the will of Him who sent me and bringing His work to completion is my food.” John 4:32,34 The surrender of our Self-will is the heart of the way of prayer and holiness Jesus taught his disciples: “…Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” Matthew 6:9-13 Prayer and Holiness Holiness requires a particular pattern of prayer at the beginning of every day. I Bow your head before the Lord, or better yet, stand in front of the mirror in your bathroom or bedroom and look at yourself, then close your eyes and pray: Lord, You know who I am and You know what I am. I spend a lot of time running away from this and hiding it from You and others. No more! I offer the whole of who I am to You. Everything! — the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses, my virtues and my vices, all the sins and addictions I struggle with. I lift them up and place them in Your hands. I trust You to do what I cannot do: to set me free and to help me find joy in my life today. II Kneel down for a moment, perhaps at the side of you bed and continue to pray: Lord, I surrender to You the one thing that has consistently brought misery to me and pain to the lives of everyone around me. I surrender to You my Self-will! I renounce my attitude of “I want”, “I expect”, “I demand”. I will not lay this attitude on everyone and everything I encounter this day, only to add to the load of my life’s disappointments at the end of the day. Instead, Lord, I ask and pray: Show me what YOU are doing in the lives of the people and in the events taking place around me. Teach me how I can contribute something of myself to what You are doing for them or in them. I give myself wholly to Your Will! III Now open your Bible for a minute or two and read a few short passages from the Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). This is the life of holiness to which Jesus calls you. It is not an impossible ideal. But if it is to become a reality, you must desire it with your whole heart, your whole soul, and with your whole mind (Matt. 22:36-37). After you have read several passages pray: Lord, alone I am powerless to live this kind of life. I get no further than my good intentions. But I am not alone! I believe that You are with me. Come alive within me, Jesus! Act on my behalf. Let some small part of Your beautiful, powerful, healing love come alive within me today. Transform some part of my attitude, my words or my actions. Defeat the terrible hold that my addictions, my fears and my compulsions have on my life. For my part, I promise to keep my illusions about myself and my Self-will from coming between us, but You will have to do the rest. I have no doubt that You can and will! Holiness must be claimed daily! Jesus told us that when we pray, we must ask our Father for “our daily bread” (Matt. 6:9-11). At the beginning of every day we must pray and offer God the truth about who and what we are. Every day we must pray and surrender our Self-will to God. Every day we must read the Gospel and ask the Lord to work in us and let His holiness come alive in us. This is HOLINESS. It is the work of honestly, Self-surrender and prayer. It is daily work: seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. There is no other way that leads to life. The Mass and Holiness The Sacrifice of the Mass contains the very same pattern of Holiness: We hear the Gospel proclaimed, and at first it sounds like an impossible ideal to try to live in our world today. At the Offertory, when the gifts of bread and wine are presented, we offer our hearts and our lives with them. As the priest lifts them up at the altar, we lift up the whole truth about who and what we are and place it in the hands of God. We join our whole heart to the bread that is offered and place our whole life in the cup of offering. The Eucharistic Prayer teaches us a lesson. What can God do with common bread and wine? By the power of His Holy Spirit He can transform them into the body and blood of His Son Jesus. What can God do with sinful, wounded lives and broken spirits? By the power of His Holy Spirit He can heal us and make us whole — He can transform us and make us holy. Just before communion we are called to stand before the Lord and pay the price for holiness. In the words of the “Our Father” we surrender our Self-will to God. We say the words, “Thy will be done”, with deliberate care. In Holy Communion, Jesus unites Himself to us as flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. He does so to remind us that we are not alone, that He is with us. God is with us and will act on our behalf. We do not have to make ourselves holy. The transformation of our lives will be the work of the Holy Spirit within us. “I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me. I will not treat God’s gracious gift as pointless.” Galatians 2:19-21 * * * “So gird the loins of your understanding… As obedient daughters and sons, do not yeild to the desires that once shaped you in your ignorance. 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.'” I Peter 1:13-16