Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

7/16/2014 (2 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Holiness is very human. It is simply being redeemed by grace and thereby made more perfectly human

I will date myself. I am an aging, former hippie whose search for truth and the meaning of life led me back to the Cross and the faith of my childhood. I still love to listen to the old songs of some of the great artists of my generation. One of my favorites was Joni Mitchell. Whenever I think about the word holiness, I recall her song entitled "Woman of Heart and Mind". It contained this probing question - "All this talk about holiness now It must be the start of the latest style Is it all books and words Or do you really feel it? Do you really laugh? Do you really care? Do you really smile When you smile?" Holiness is very human. It is simply redeemed by grace and thereby made more perfectly human.

The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.

The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/16/2014 (2 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: holiness, perfection, freedom, sanctity, spirituality, progress, perfect, be ye perfect, maturity in the Lord, Christian maturity, grace, Joni Mitchell, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - In Matthews Gospel we read these challenging words of Jesus:

"Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust."

"For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
(St. Matthew 5: 43-48)

How can we be 'Perfect'? What does it mean? What does holiness mean? Can we all become holy?

I will date myself. I am an aging, former hippie whose search for truth and the meaning of life led me back to the Cross and the faith of my childhood. I still love to listen to the old songs of some of the great artists of my generation. One of my favorites was Joni Mitchell.

Whenever I think about the word holiness, I recall her song entitled "Woman of Heart and Mind". It contained this probing question:

"All this talk about holiness now It must be the start of the latest style Is it all books and words Or do you really feel it? Do you really laugh? Do you really care? Do you really smile When you smile?"

Holiness is very human. It is simply redeemed by grace and thereby made more perfectly human.

Perfect?

The admonition from Jesus is clear and undeniable. It is repeated in other Gospel accounts and developed in several New Testament Epistles. I suggest that our problem with understanding and responding to the passage is twofold; we misunderstand the meaning of the word and we have a limited our comprehension of the goal of the fullness of salvation in Jesus Christ. 

The One through whom we were first created, is re-creating us now through His grace,- as cooperate and choose to live our lives now  in Him. Yet, we do not yet perceive who we are to become.

The beloved disciple John explained in his first letter, "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. " (1 John 3:2)

We are called even now to become like Him. We are called to be "perfected" in Him.

It helps to consider the word translated perfect in English in order to grasp the call to participation contained in this invitation to conversion. Filtering this word through linguistic limitations, we might not even try to respond to the invitation and miss the grace of conversion needed to actually live the call to love.

In Greek, the word is telios. Let me explain.

Telios refers to something being completed, brought to its full purpose, potential and intended end and vocation. For example, in the world of objects, a hammer is telios or perfect when it is hammering a nail. In the world of subjects, things are telios or perfect when they are fulfilling their nature.

We were created in the Image of the God of Love who made us for love. In Jesus Christ, we are now "capacitated", to use a term of the early father and Bishop Ireneaus of Lyons, made capable by the grace of His Redemption, of loving as God Himself loves.

In fact we are called to love others with God's very love. "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn 4:16).

As we respond to this invitation with both our words and our actions, as we learn cooperate with grace, we are completed or perfected in Jesus Christ.

In our Western minds, we limit this word "perfect" - and can  fail to grasp its promise and potential. We equate it with being sinless, in the sense of never again making a wrong choice. We think of it mathematically - rather than relationally.

However, the concept is also applied to Jesus by the author of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews in chapter 5 verses 8-9: "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him."

Jesus was made perfect through what He suffered? Yet, Jesus was without sin. How then was He perfected?

He came into the world to redeem, to transform us all by a life, and a death, of perfect sacrificial love. He fulfilled His purpose when He presided over the new creation from the Altar of that Cross and robbed death of its victory.

We are called to be perfected by cooperating with His Grace - to love as He loved, to love with His love. By so doing we prove also ourselves to be Sons and daughters of His Father, who, in Him, has become Our Father.

When we follow Jesus -in both word and deed - a dynamic process happens within us, a process of ever deepening conversion and transformation. We change. We are converted.

We actually "participate in the Divine Nature", the Apostle Peter tells us - beginning right now. (2 Peter 1:4). We are made complete, perfected in charity, by grace and our continued cooperation with grace.

We begin to change into the very new men and women that Jesus Christ has now capacitated us to become.

We fulfill our purpose of carrying on His life of redemptive love by loving even those who do not love us. We also continue His great work of Redemption, which He will complete upon His return. Only then will the entire creation be reconstituted by love, made perfect, and handed back to the Father as a perfect gift of love.

So, let us be perfected, as the Heavenly Father is perfect, by the grace given to us through the Son and in the Spirit.  Let us respond to the call to holiness, no matter what our state in life or vocation, with an honest acknowledgement of our utter inability to make progress on our own efforts - but a sincere desire to continue to grow in the Lord by cooperating with His grace.

The Holy Spirit intends to make us saints.

We are meant to progress in the Christian life. That doe snot happen by our own strength of will. To the contrary, it happens as empty ourselves  of ourselves, in order to be filled up with His Divine Life. The Apostle Paul understood his own inadequacies.

He called himself the chief among sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) "The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners."  He called himself the foremost because he believed that he was. He did not have a bad self image. He understood the path to holiness and knew the gift of grace.

He also opened up for us a key to unlocking the mystery in this acclamation from his letter to the Galatians: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

We follow the same Risen Jesus and are invited to embrace the same way of life. I conclude with an excerpt from an explanation of Christian holiness in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which may be helpful.

CHRISTIAN HOLINESS

2012 "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him . . . For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified."

2013 "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity."All are called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.


2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.

2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes: He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.
(Gregory of Nyssa)

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More U.S.

Who Are the Mother and Brothers of Jesus? We Are Watch

Image of The Father of Jesus becomes our Father also, as we enter, through Him, into the inner life of the Trinity. He underscores this truth right before He ascended when He instructed Mary of Magdala to tell the disciples

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In this exchange, Jesus opens up for those with eyes to see and ears to hear the deeper interior importance and meaning of the motherhood of Mary  and the interior meaning of all family relationships renewed by the Holy Spirit. He gives to those with ears to ... continue reading


Pope Francis names Bishop Blasť Cupich to replace ailing Chicago Archbishop Watch

Image of Ill from liver cancer, Cardinal George said at a news conference in Chicago that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has chosen Spokane Bishop Blase Cupich as Chicago's new archbishop. The ailing Cardinal Francis George welcomed his pending retirement after his 17 years of service, with only the highest praise for his successor. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


World population could hit 11 billion by 2100 new study reveals Watch

Image of Africa will see the largest population boom, going from 1 billion to 4 billion by the century's end. Asia will also likely rise a bit, but will peak at 5 billion by 2050 and decline.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A United Nations-led analysis published on September 18 has revealed that the world's population may reach 11 billion by 2100, which would mean two billion more people than previously expected, largely due to high birth rates in Africa. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


As death toll passes 2,600 U.S. lawmakers worry about spread of Ebola Watch

Image of Red Cross workers in Guinea in protective gear. Currently, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are the worst nations worst hit by the West African Ebola outbreak.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Legislators in Washington are becoming increasingly concerned about the spread of Ebola and worry that it could become more contagious and potentially spread into the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - President Obama's new plan to put 3,000 U.S. ... continue reading


Obama gains support from House to further fight against ISIS Watch

Image of President Obama, with the support of the House of Representatives, may now start arming and training Syrian groups to fight the Islamic State, and will continue to strike targets in Iraq.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While President Barack Obama told Americans-in somewhat ambiguous terms-last week that he intended to destroy the Islamic State, as of September 17, he promised that the United States will not fight another ground war in Iraq. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Values Voters: What We Can Learn from Ted Cruz Being Booed at the In Defense of Christians Conference Watch

Image of Senator Ted Cruz from Texas was the keynote speaker at what was billed as a Gala Solidarity Dinner. Sadly, it certainly did not demonstrate solidarity between Christians. A small group in the assembly, rudely and loudly, reacted negatively to some of the words Senator Cruz spoke as he expressed his convictions concerning the persecution taking place in this land which is properly holy, precisely because of its role in God's loving plan of salvation for the whole human race.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The events of Wednesday, September 10, 2014, at the Inaugural In Defense of Christians Gala make abundantly clear that there is a serious and urgent need for values voters to meet and discuss the crisis in the Mideast and ways in which we can work together to ... continue reading


Our Age Need Rebels of Love: The Christian Church is the Real Counterculture Watch

Image of As a young man I rejected secularist, atheistic humanism - but not humanism itself. As I studied the early Church fathers I came to understand that the true humanism is authentic Christianity, the kind professed, in word and deed, by the early Christians. As I read early Church history I was brought back to the mother church of the entire Christian movement, the Catholic Church. I came to believe that she offers the theological anthropology, ecclesiology and world view of the early fathers of the Church. I also came to believe that she was the real counterculture.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

We can - we will - change the culture of the contemporary West, if we are willing to suffer, struggle and offer ourselves to the Lord for the task. His power, the power of the Holy Spirit, working through us, will accomplish what we can never accomplish on our ... continue reading


What is a Catholic Deacon? Bishop Kevin Rhoades Gives the Answer Watch

Image of The Most Reverend Kevin Rhoades, the Bishop of the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, presiding over the Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate of six new Holy Cross Deacons

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

It is a privilege to ordain you permanent deacons.  No, I didn't make a mistake.  Don't worry: you are scheduled to be ordained priests next year by Bishop Jenky!  But what happens today in the sacrament of Orders is not something transitional; it ... continue reading


ISIS among us! New York man sought to kill Iraq war veterans Watch

Image of Mufid Elfgeeh, a 30-year-old, Yemeni born man who lived in New York, attempted to send three people to Iraq to fight for the Islamic State, and purchase firearms to kill veterans from the Iraq War.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Yemeni born food store owner in upstate New York sent funding to the Islamic State and attempted to sent three jihadists to Syria to fight alongside the terrorist cell while plotting to perpetrate attacks against American troops who had served in Iraq. LOS ... continue reading


Father Frank Pavone: 16433 Children Buried in One Grave Watch

Image of Fr. Pavone prays at the graveside of the children

By Fr. Frank Pavone

For many years, this mass grave had no marker or headstone, just as the children have no names. But now there is a stone, and we are going to name the babies. Supporters of abortion do not want people to see mass graves in our midst. It's too disturbing a ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13
1 Like flowing water is a king's heart in Yahweh's ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44
1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 8:19-21
19 His mother and his brothers came looking for him, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Padre Pio
September 23: Francesco, named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, was born to ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter