Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

7/16/2014 (2 weeks 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 weeks 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 July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More U.S.

Refugee children from Honduras to be warmly welcomed in 'murder ravaged' Chicago Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The plight of unaccompanied children making their way from Central America into the United States through the Texas border has been in national headlines for several weeks now. The City of Chicago now says that it will gladly take in up to 1,000 children ... continue reading


Sudanese woman previously sentenced to death arrives in United States Watch

Image of Greeted by her husband and two young children at a large crowd of supporters at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, Mariam Ibrahim declined comment to the media.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Mariam Ibrahim from Sudan, at one time sentenced to die for her Christian faith has since arrived at her new home in the United States. Her plight was of grave international concern. Greeted by her husband and two young children at a large crowd of supporters ... continue reading


'We are coming for you!' American Islamic jihadist suicide bomber gleefully shouts to Americans on chilling final video Watch

Image of American terrorist Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha smiled and talked about dying and going to paradise.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new video shows an American smiling as he prepares to kill himself and dozens of others in a suicide bombing. In the video, made just before his death, Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha, 22, ripped, chewed, and burned his American passport before climbing into an ... continue reading


Bridget of Sweden, Marriage and Family, and the Need for Canonized Married Saints Watch

Image of St Bridget of Sweden, her husband Ulf, and all the modern Popes call Christian married couples to become the 'Sweet and Smiling Face of the Church' in this age. This is an age which is desperately in need of all kinds of saints. I suggest we particularly need examples of married, canonized Saints. That is precisely because this is an age where faithful marriage is now counter-cultural. We need examples of men and women who not only embraced it in Christ, but lived it as a but a path to heroic virtue.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The clear teaching of the Bible, the Christian tradition and the re-emphasis of the last Council in the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council, make clear - we are ALL called to holiness in life. That  is what the Catholic Church regularly refers to as ... continue reading


GOBBLING UP RESOURCES: Fastest part of U.S. population is immigrants, gobbling up national resources Watch

Image of A new report from the group warns that continued population growth could top a worldwide 10 billion by 2100. The report, entitled

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Most of the United States' population growth is from immigrants - who are consuming resources dangerously fast. Those are the finding of the group called Negative Population Growth Inc. Furthermore, 80 percent of the growth in U.S. population comes from ... continue reading


Malinformed much? Ninety percent of your information now comes from just 6 media sources Watch

Image of Small media outlets are consumed by the large, limiting the variety of expression.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Have you ever tried to describe something, but lacked the vocabulary to do it? This is the concept behind Newspeak, a fictional language in George Orwell's 1984. Orwell proposed that by limiting expression, thought itself could be limited. Today, as media companies ... continue reading


Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage struck down Watch

Image of The Virginia case, Bostic v. Rainey, was brought by two same-sex couples. Fourteen thousand gay couples also were certified as a class for the suit.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a dramatic reversal of a voter-based 2006 decision, U.S. appeals court this week struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, the latest in a string of court rulings to back gay marriage. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit ... continue reading


Archbishop Chaput Speaks at the Napa Institute Conference on Pope Francis and Economic Justice

Image of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is one of the preeminent Churchmen of our age. He offers a prophetic voice for this important time. He not only grasps and articulates Catholic Social Doctrine well, he also understands the real treasure we have been given in this Pope who took the name Francis. I believe that his insights into Pope Francis need to be read by as many people as possible.

By Catholic Online

In matters of economic justice, Francis' concerns are the same as Benedict's and John Paul II's and Pius XI's and Leo XIII's. He understands economic matters through the lens of Church teaching in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Like his ... continue reading


Thousands of Christians Flee Under Death Threat From Tyrannical Caliph and ISIS Jihadists Watch

Image of (Pictured: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, or Caliph Ibrahim) At first, Christians were ordered to gather in a central place to receive the directive from the self appointed Caliph. Understandably, given the track record of this maniacal tyrant, few did. So, the text of the statement was issued as a formal declaration to all Christians - We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of Jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

By now, everyone who is in anyway concerned about what is happening to Christians in Iraq has heard the horrific news. The madman who claims to be a descendant of Mohammed, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi - who in his delusion and grandiosity has taken to calling himself ... continue reading


Deacon Keith Fournier: The Courage of the Catholic Bishops, Religious Liberty, Hobby Lobby and ENDA Watch

Image of Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate. Deacon Fournier is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Theology and Philosophy, BA), the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University (Theology of Marriage and Family, MTS), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (JD). He has completed requirements for the PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America and is writing the PhD dissertation on the teaching of St. John Paul II.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Catholic Bishops are doing an excellent job standing up for Religious liberty as a fundamental human right. One of my growing concerns is that many Catholics do not even read what they are saying. Sadly, in a propagandized media where sound bites substitute ... 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, Jeremiah 26:1-9
1 At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 69:6, 8-10, 14
6 Those who hope in you must not be made fools of, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:54-58
54 and, coming to his home town, he taught the people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 1st, 2014 Image

St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
August 1: Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the ... 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