"Be Holy, for I am Holy" (1 Pt 1:16)
THIRSTING FOR HOLINESS
The Lord commanded us to be holy as He is holy, to be "holy in every aspect of (our) conduct" (see 1 Pt 1:15-16). Holiness is the very character of God, and our heavenly Father wants His children to act and look like Him. We are called to be a "holy nation" (1 Pt 2:9), and the Lord is coming back a final time for a holy Church, "holy and immaculate, without stain or wrinkle or anything of that sort" (Eph 5:27). Without holiness, we cannot go to heaven and see God (Heb 12:14).
SPIRITUAL STARVATION AND ANOREXIA
The Lord will make us holy (1 Thes 5:23-24), but we must first thirst for holiness. However, we are already hungering and thirsting for the things of the world. Because we are stuffed with the spiritual junk food of the world, we have lost our appetite for holiness, the food of God's word (Mt 4:4), and the nourishment of the Lord's body and blood (Jn 6:55). "Anxieties over life's demands, and the desire for wealth, and cravings of other sorts" choke off the seed of God's word (Mk 4:19). "The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed" (Gal 5:17). "Lust indulged starves the soul" (Prv 13:19). We are spiritually anorexic and starving. Our life-style has become a "death-style."
The following example illustrates this. The publisher of this pamphlet, Presentation Ministries, is named after Our Lady of Presentation Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. This church was in a neighborhood of several thousand materially poor people. When I preached, I exhorted the parishioners to reach out to the elderly, sick, poor, young, and suffering thousands in the neighborhood. The parishioners seemed very apathetic. If they went to church on Sunday, they thought that was all there was to Christianity. I was angry at the parish for its apathy and selfishness. The Lord dealt with me by giving me a picture of the spiritual condition of my parish. He showed me that my parishioners were in "intensive care," starving to death. And I was wrong in expecting starving people to reach out to the poor and suffering.
After this experience, we cut back on the normal activities of a parish and spent a year doing everything we could to free and feed a spiritually anorexic and starving people. We tried to free the anorexic by prophetically prayerfully, painfully challenging our parishioners not to live the typical American life-style but live a simple life. To feed those who were not spiritually anorexic or not completely anorexic, we doubled the number of weekday Masses. We planned Masses for every kind of special group we could think of. We had Bible studies at church, in houses, in apartment complexes, and on the street. We taught the Bible for hundreds of people or just for one. We did everything we could to get even a "spoonful" of spiritual nourishment to the starving, anorexic members of our church.
After a year of feeding, we once again called people to ministry. Instead of apathy, we received an enthusiastic response. Many of our parishioners thirsted for holiness. They wanted holy Mass, holy Communion, the holy Bible, and the holy rosary. Our people wanted long Masses, long sermons, daily communal prayer, and intensive evangelization and ministry. Nourished people respond much differently than starving ones do. (For more about spiritual anorexia, see our book, Living in Reality.)
THE HOLY SPIRIT CHANGES OUR LIFE-STYLE
The key to holiness is thirsting for opportunities to grow in holiness. And the key to thirsting for holiness is changing our life-style. However, we have chosen our life-style and established our priorities to benefit ourselves. To change, we would have to die to self. And only love is stronger than self. When we deepen our personal relationship with Jesus, this love supersedes our priorities, patterns, and habits. Paul proclaimed: "Those things I used to consider gain I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ. I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. For His sake I have forfeited everything; I have accounted all else rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth" (Phil 3:7-8). A personal love-relationship with Jesus can change our life-style.
Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit Who makes us holy. When we allow the Spirit to be active in our lives, we have a parching thirst for holiness and see major life-style changes. The Holy Spirit works in two ways negatively and positively.
The Spirit will convict the world of sin (Jn 16:8) by showing us the connection between the things of the world and Calvary. We know that our sins were the reason Jesus suffered and died. However, we still don't hate sin that much. We love the sin and hate the sinner, rather than the opposite. We even repeatedly watch sin on TV (i.e. adultery, murder, and violence) and think it's entertaining. The Holy Spirit will change that by giving us a deeper love for Jesus and by spiritually taking us to the cross and showing us the direct connection between the sins of the world and the death of our Brother, Jesus. When this happens, we are turned off to the world, crucified to the world and the world to us (Gal 6:14). We crucify our flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24). By the Spirit, we "put to death the evil deeds of the body" (Rm 8:13).
The Spirit not only turns us off to the world, but also turns us on to a life-style of holiness. After the first Pentecost, the early Christians were led by the Spirit into a new way of life. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). The Spirit will lead us in many ways to a new life-style (see Gal 5:25). This will push into the background the selfish desires of our flesh (Gal 5:17).
Many of the Spirit's leadings are catalysts. They not only make small
changes in our life-style, but begin a chain-reaction resulting in many
changes. Then we become holy in every aspect of our conduct (1 Pt 1:15). The
following table lists several areas of life, some main "catalytic convertors,"
and Scripture passages indicating the catalytic effect of various leadings of
|AREAS OF LIFE||"CATALYTIC BIBLICAL CONVERTORS"||BASIS|
|relationships||loving enemies||Scriptures about Jesus' death|
|speech||the gift of tongues||1 Cor 14:2, 4, 16|
|marriage||submission and love||Eph 5:22, 25|
There are many other areas of life and many other catalysts. This table is intended only to give a few examples of the leadings of the Spirit which should take precedence over the desires of the flesh.
The Spirit cries out in our hearts, "Abba" (Rm 8:15; Gal 4:6). He confirms our faith that our Father in heaven is a real Father Who loves us and provides for us, His children. We were manipulated into a self-centered, worldly life-style because of our insecurities. We thought that we had to take care of ourselves because we didn't trust our Father. When the Spirit deals with the root cause of our insecurities, we know that our Father will always be there for us. Then we don't have to try to serve two masters (see Mt 6:24). We can learn from the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and be free to thirst for and to seek first God's way of holiness (see Mt 6:33).
PRAYERS FOR HOLINESS
Pray the following prayers for holiness until you see that you are letting God answer your prayers.
- Father, may I thirst for holiness more than I desire anything else on earth.
- Father, make me holy in every aspect of my conduct, do in me what You must to do through me what You will.
- Father, because of my relationship with Jesus, may I count everything as loss and live a new life-style.
- Father, send the Spirit to take me to the cross and crucify me to the world. Give me a new life-style.
- God of peace, make me "perfect in holiness." Preserve me "whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thes 5:23).
Nihil Obstat: Rev. Robert J. Buschmiller, August 29, 1991.
Imprimatur: Most Rev. James H. Garland, Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, September 5, 1991.