“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”
Holiness really means that we are well ordered, that we are living according to our order of creation in the image and likeness of God. For best ordering, the simplest method is to know our unique talents and gifts and to conform them to the person of Jesus Christ.
How do we know that we are in the state of being holy? That is determined by the condition and state of our hearts—also by experiencing an abiding sense of peace within.
In his book, Tattoos On The Heart, Fr. Gregory Boyle S.J., tells a story of one young man, who had been abandoned by his family after they had abused and mistreated him. The young man called “Fr. G” to wish him a happy new year. Fr. Boyle thanked him, told him that he had remembered him on Christmas, and asked him how he had spent his Christmas. Evidently the young man spent it in his small apartment—but not alone. He invited some of the guys he worked with at Homeboy Industries to come over, because they also had no place to go. They were all former members of rival gangs. When Fr. Boyle asked them what they did, he said he had cooked a turkey with butter, salt and pepper, and lemon juice (the way he remembered his grandmother making it). And that was all they had—just the turkey. All six gathered, just sat there and watched the oven until the turkey was done. Fr. Boyle declares that here was “the entire law and the prophets, all in one moment, right there, in this humble, holy kitchen.” On another day, Fr. Boyle asked the same young man how he had survived the years of mistreatment, abuse, and violence. He responded that he had always wondered whether or not there was anything of goodness about him, and then he said, “…one day, I discovered it here, in my heart. I found—goodness.”
When we discover the God-given goodness that abides in our hearts, we have discovered the source of our holiness as well. To remain in touch with our goodness—a goodness that is meant to be lived and shared—is to be holy. This is what Jesus means when he calls us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. The process of being perfected is the project of a lifetime—one that will be finally realized only in heaven.
Haven’t we observed in these recent weeks that those who would oppress and abuse others only win and retain their power until their victims discover the power of their true inner goodness, and use that power to transcend the evil perpetrated upon them? I think Fr. Boyle’s real life experience of those six young men deserves our deepest reflection and prayer.