Holiness is an expectation that God has for all people, not just some people. It is an expectation for the young and the more seasoned, for those new to the faith and those well-versed, for the laity as well as the clergy. One of our church words for holy is sanctified and for the process of becoming holy we speak of our sanctification. Both sanctified and sanctification have the sense of something or someone being singled out and set apart from what is not holy and from what is not of the character of God. If we take seriously that God expects from us that we become and remain set apart, that we become holy people, then we should take time out to reflect on our personal state of holiness and for intentional holiness work. Holiness does not just happen but develops through practices such as fasting and prayer, the reading and meditation on scripture, confession and penance, practicing virtues, pilgrimage and spiritual journeying, and through the intentional study of God, among other means. Setting aside time for this intentional holiness work may be harder for some than for others, but it is something that all should do. The Bishop of Kansas would say to his clergy gathered during Holy Week that he knew this was a very busy time, but that was all the more reason for them to gather. I recall that in seminary, required spiritual retreats would seem to come at the most busy time of the semester when papers were due and exams would follow. I have come to realize the wisdom in what at the time seemed like such bad timing. Greater spiritual growth often comes through sacrifice.
As we begin the new year, I am thinking about what holiness work I need to do and what holiness work we all need. Throughout the year, I will have several opportunities to go on retreat with my fellow clergy and I will also be going abroad this summer on a mission trip. Those times away from the parish and to foreign lands have been for me good places for deeper prayer and reflection. I encourage each of you to reflect on your own holiness by answering a simple question: How close do I feel to God? And then ask yourself a follow up question: What am I doing or should I do to draw closer to God? I am interested in hearing your answers and helping you in your process of sanctification, so do share your thoughts with me. The women of the parish are reminded that we have a women’s retreat coming at the end of February. Registration will close at the end of January. Please see the Adult Formation bulletin board or me for more information. For some, this may be what is needed to begin or further their process of sanctification. Being holy is for everyone, so let’s all work in 2016 on being holy people.
Grace and peace,