We are Called to True Holiness
May 16, 2004 Sixth Sunday of Easter
Reading I (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29)
Reading II (Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23)
Gospel (St. John 14:23-29)
In the second reading today from the Book of Revelation, Saint John has a vision of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God; and He tells us what the holy city looks like, the glory and the splendor of the place that God has chosen to dwell in. He tells us that there is no temple in the city because God Himself is the temple, and there is no lamp because the Lamb is the lamp of that holy city. In the temple of the ancient Jewish people, there was a large lamp, a candelabra, the one candle that burned twenty-four hours a day; it was the lamp that signified the presence of God. It is something similar to what we have with the sanctuary lamp which is always wherever the Blessed Sacrament is, not so much signifying God’s presence (which it does) but in fact signifying more the prayers of the people of God. Even when no one is here in the church, that candle represents our prayers and our worship, our adoration, going up before the Lord twenty-four hours a day. That candle burns always wherever the Lord happens to be.
Now when we stop to think about what we read in the Gospel, when the Lord tells us that if anyone loves Him the Father will love that person and they will come and make their dwelling with him, that means we are now to be that heavenly Jerusalem. If you stop to think about what it means, when you were baptized you became a member of that New Jerusalem. You were incorporated into the covenant, Who is Jesus Christ, and you have been made a temple of the Most Holy Trinity. And so, in this world, each one of us is called to be an image of what we are called to be in heaven. In heaven, there will be that New Jerusalem that God is going to provide. In this world, we are to be the image of that New Jerusalem. We are to live our lives in such a way that we are demonstrating what it is to be holy. We are to be in such a way that it is evident to the world that God is the One Who is the main temple and the lamp is the Lamb Who lights our way in the darkness of this world.
We are called, then, by God to a life of true holiness. When Our Lord speaks to us in the Gospel today, He tells us, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him.” So that is really the point that we have to look at. What does it mean to keep God’s word? Our Lord tells us that it is not His word, but it is the word of the Father; and that if anyone does not follow His word, they have rejected the Father as well as the Son. And He tells us that He is going to send the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, to remind us of everything He has taught us, and to keep us in the truth.
What we see in the early Church – and the Church is that heavenly Jerusalem in the world today, and each one of us is a member of that heavenly Jerusalem – is that they gathered in Jerusalem to take up the question of whether the new converts from the pagans had to become Jewish before they became Christian. The apostles write a letter and it starts out by saying, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours as well…” So they recognized right from the very start that God had provided the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth, and they called upon the Holy Spirit and determined what the truth was: No, the Gentile converts did not have to become Jews – but neither could they remain pagans. And so as they wrote this letter, they laid out very clearly that they had to give up those things which were common to the pagans, but they did not have to take up those things which were of the Old Covenant because the New Covenant was the fulfillment of the Old. The Jewish converts to Christianity would have to leave behind some of the ways that had been superseded by the New Covenant while continuing to live those things which remained: the moral laws. The pagans would have to give up the pagan way of life with all the immorality that went along with it, and they were going to have to live according to the ways of Christ.
If we look just at our own selves and ask, “What does this mean to follow the Word of God? What does it mean to love Christ?” because Our Lord tells us, “If anyone loves Me, My Father will love him and we will come and make our dwelling with him,” and, well, that sounds exactly like what we would want, so what does it mean? He tells us, first of all, that we must keep His word. We have looked at that point many times, that every word which comes out of His mouth is the Word of God and therefore it must be followed. It is not an opinion, it is not an option – it is absolute truth. And He has given us the Holy Spirit now to lead us into all truth; therefore, what the Church teaches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the absolute truth. So if we are going to say that we love Jesus, it is not about having gushy feelings about the Lord. Rather it is to say that if we love Him, we are going to sacrifice everything that is not of Him and we are going to be obedient to Him.
All you have to do is look in the news these days and ask yourself, “What is going on?” We have lots of people who want to call themselves Catholic, but they do not want to follow the teachings of Christ. We are now arguing about the most ludicrous things that you can imagine. Can someone who is in favor of abortion go to Communion? Give me a break. We all know the answer to that. NO! Why is there even a discussion? Is it okay to kill babies and say that you love Jesus? We know better than that. In fact, if anyone votes for someone who is in favor of abortion that is a mortal sin and you cannot go to Communion. It is not just about the unfortunate politician who thinks he can say, “Well, I’m Catholic but I’m going to vote for abortion.” No, it is about every single Catholic who votes for that unfortunate soul.
But it goes beyond that. Is it okay for someone to engage in homosexual things and go to Communion? NO! Nor can we as Catholics stand up and say, “Personally, I don’t agree with it, but I can’t tell someone else.” It is wrong! It is condemned in Scripture, it has been condemned by the Church for 2,000 years, and it was condemned by the Jewish people for thousands of years before that. It has never been acceptable and it never will be acceptable because it goes against the Word of God. Yet, for some odd reason, we have all these people who claim to be Catholic who want to try to justify why it is okay for some people to live that way. It is not!
Neither is it okay for two people of the opposite sex to live together before they get married, to engage in sexual things, and come to Communion. Nor is it okay for people to be putting tattoos all over their body and come to Communion. Nor is it okay for anyone to put holes all over their body and stick things in them and think that they can come to Communion. These things are mortal sins and they are pagan practices.
The question for us today is not whether we have to become Jews in order to become Christians; the question is whether it is okay to be a pagan and call yourself a Catholic. The answer is NO! If you are going to claim to follow Jesus Christ, as was made clear by the power of the Holy Spirit through the apostles, you must give up pagan ways. Our world is pagan, and it is not okay for anyone to call themselves a Catholic and live according to the pagan ways of life. It is time that we start telling people to put some clothes on, to cover up their bellies and their chests and their legs and everything else that is supposed to be covered and to look decent. It is time that we start telling people that it is not okay to live according to immoral standards. It is time that we start telling people the truth and quit trying to justify ourselves by saying, “It is not okay for me personally, but I can’t force my opinion on you.”
The truth is not an opinion – the truth is absolute. It is not an option; it is not up for discussion. If we are going to follow Christ, we must follow the truth because we are called to be temples of the Most Holy Trinity. We are called to be the image of that New Jerusalem in this pagan world now. We are to show to the world what it means to be truly holy. These things are not options for us. We cannot live like the pagans do and think that it is okay to call ourselves Catholic, practicing our Catholic faith on one hand while living like pagans the rest of the time. It is not an option. It is time that we stand up and recognize that if we are going to say we are followers of Jesus Christ and we love Him that we have to be obedient to His word. And His word, He tells us, is the Word of the Father because Jesus Himself is the Word spoken by the Father; and He Himself is the truth, so He is the standard according to which each and every one of us is to live. It is time that we reject pagan ways and pagan practices and pagan patterns of thought. It is time that we reject everything this world has to offer and embrace what it is that we profess.
We are called to true holiness. We are called to the peace that Jesus offers to us. It is a peace, He says, that the world cannot give. The world says, “You will have peace as long as you have lots of money. You will have peace as long as you have pleasure. You will have peace as long as you can do what everyone else does and fit in.” It is a very fleeting peace and it is a very surface-level peace. When you are united with Christ and you are in the state of grace, you will have a deep and profound peace, a peace which no one can take away from you because it is spiritual; it is not temporal. It is something which is deep and profound, not something which is surface-level. It is something which is unchanging because it is the peace of Christ, Who is unchanging. It is not the kind of worldly, external peace that changes with social mores where if you do not wear the right kind of clothes or you do not have the right kind of hair style or if you do not do things like everyone else then you do not fit in and therefore you do not have peace. The peace of Christ is an abiding peace, and that is His gift to us: the peace of knowing that what you are doing is right.
Even if everyone else around you is doing something entirely different, you have the knowledge that if you are following Jesus Christ you are following the truth; and if you are following the truth, you are not subject to falsehood. So you know that as long as you are doing what is right it does not matter what everyone else does because you know that you are correct and you can be at peace knowing that what you are doing is right, that what you are doing is the Will of God. There is no need to try to justify yourself. There is no need to try to say, “I’m Catholic, BUT…” There is no need to try to say, “I can do this AND I can call myself Catholic.” All you have to do is say, “I’m Catholic. I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I accept them, I believe them, and I live them.” That is our dignity. That is what we are all called to. That is what it means to be a member of this holy city, the New Jerusalem, to be a member of Jesus Christ, to hear the Word of God and keep it. That is our call.
It is time that we learn from the early Church to call upon the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. The Church has been doing that for 2,000 years and teaches the fullness of the truth; as members of the Church, that is in each one of us through our baptism. It is time now that we reject the pagan ways, the ways of this world, and that we put on Jesus Christ, that we listen to the Word of God, that we follow the Word of God, that we love the Word of God. And anyone who hears His word and loves Him, the Father will come to him and make His dwelling within him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.