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Holiness In Thechurch

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What do you understand by 'Holiness' and must we all be 'Holy' to be members of the Church.

According to the O.T. things or places were holy that were set apart for a sacred purpose; the opposite of holy is therefore common or profane. Similarly a holy person meant one who held a sacred office. The Israelites were a holy people because they stood in a special relationship to Jehovah. under the guidance of the Prophets it was seen that what distinguished Jehovah from the gods of the heathen was his personal character. The word HOLY therefore came to refer to moral character. Israel must be holy in character because the God of Israel was holy. The Law of Holiness shows how the attempt was made by means of ceremonial observance to secure this holiness of character. The attempt failed because the later Jews observed the letter and neglected the spirit; they attached more importance to the ceremonial than to the moral; and the result was a lapse into formalism. But in the writings of the Prophets it is clearly laid down that the value of worship in the eyes of God depends upon the personal character of the worshipper.

Whether we like it or not, there is no avoiding the fact that we are called to be holy. It's not just an Old Testament concept that's swept away in the New Testament - the Old Testament tell us: take the way of holiness and be holy, for I am holy,(1) it is repeated and even amplified in Peter's letter. In Hebrews we read: Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy, without holiness no one will see the Lord. (2). Holiness is so important that without it, you will not see th Lord, either here in this life or the life to come. The problem is that, on the whole, we don't like it. The idea of holiness seems intimidating or fearful to us. We feel it as a duty rather than a privilege. Too often, if we're honest with ourselves, our emotional gut-reaction is that we want to sin, but we're prepared to do God a favour and withhold that pleasure from ourselves. Yet the bible talks as though it expects us to be holy as a matter of course. In fact, it says that we are holy - it says that's our identity, and it seems to take it for granted that it's also how we'll behave: it says we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. (3) Holiness here is presented as a positive thing - something to be excited about, on a par with being a chosen people. This idea of holiness is a million miles from the drudgery we often associate with the word. It seems that our ideas about holiness are confused, and don't at all match what the bible means by the word. What does it mean? Holiness is absence from sin, wholeness and setting ourselves aside for God.

The point is that when we become Christians, something fundamental changes within us (``If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation'' (4)). God changes our inner selves so that sin is no longer natural or inevitable for us as it was before we were Christians. In other words, we're not supposed to just grit our teeth and bravely resist the temptation to sin. Something in us is supposed to revolt at the very idea.

Paul spells it out in more detail: "What shall we do? Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase more abundantly? Of course not. If we have died to sin, how can we go on living in it? (5) What happens is that as we mature as Christians, we find that we hate sin because we are of God and he hates sin. This doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen. We tend to think of trying to be holy as a dry, gritty matter of avoiding sin, but we do not need sin. When we sin we can then receive the Sacrament of reconcilation. For us to sin it is a rejection of God's love for us, so we need to restore our friendship with him (6) to help restore our holiness. We then receive God's gift of salvation, eternal life, spiritual life, through Jesus Christ our Lord (7). When this happens we become a "new creature; old things are passed away; all things are become new" (8). With this comes a hunger for spiritual food from the Word of God, the Bible and a spiritual power inside to enable him to overcome temptation and sin. God imparts the Holy Spirit and a new nature.

Holiness is also wholeness. It is healthy in the sense that it reflects our identity. Fundamentally, we are holy because God has made us so. Paul describes us as ``slaves to righteousness'' (9) So when we sin, we are not behaving like whole people - instead, we contradict ourselves and deny our own identity. Peter shows that we have a family likeness with our father: Imitate the one who called you. As he is holy so you, too, be holy in all your conduct, since Scripture says: Be Holy for I am Holy. (10) This is much more positive that the mere absence of sin. We must interpret Peter's words not just as meaning that, as God is sinless so much we be, but also that, as God is actively good, so must we be.

The Hebrew word most often translated as ``holy'' in the bible has the literal meaning of ``set apart, separate''. Our holiness or otherwise is about who we belong to, what we're made for, what kind of creatures we are. We are called to be holy in the sense of being set apart from the world we happen to live in, to belong instead to the God who made us and who chose us even before the foundation of the world (11). We all have the ability to be holy as it is given and received through the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconcillation. (12). The Pope has stated that the way we live our everyday life can help us to draw closer to holiness. (13). We need to be living by God's standards, not the world's. God isn't calling us to be perfect, but to be distinct from the world. 1 Peter 2:9 describes believers as "a holy nation". It is a fact! We are separated from the world; we need to live out that reality in our day-to-day living, which Peter tells us how to do in 1 Peter 1:13-16.

As we hear in the C.C.C: (14)All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. (15) All are called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (16)

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that . . . doing the

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