Readings: Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18, 1Cor 3:16-23, Matt 5:38-48
We are called to be holy – because the Lord our God is holy. Weren’t we taught that striving for holiness is what the spiritual life is all about? And ‘being holy’ is to love our neighbour as ourselves. So we work on it.
The gospel similarly tells us to be ‘perfect’ as our Heavenly Father is perfect. We are to be like God – loving all God’s creatures without exception, as God does. So spiritual life, especially religious life, is about striving for ‘perfection’?
Perhaps Paul, in the second reading, points to something different. We are God’s temple because the Spirit of God lives in us – and that temple is ‘sacred’, – i.e. holy?
As it happens, my favourite poem at present is Mary Oliver’s “At the River Clarion”.
I don’t know who God is exactly
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river called Clarion, on a
And all afternoon I listened to the voices
of the river talking.
… the water itself, and even the mosses trailing
under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me
what they were saying.
Said the river: I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered
the moss beneath the water.
Can I add: And I too?
This is something different. Did we get it wrong and has Mary Oliver (and other mystics) got it right? Further on she goes on to say
Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and
each of you too.
Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
As we do so, do we show love for all God’s creatures without exception, not in order to achieve holiness but because being ‘little pieces of God’ we live like God, love like God? It comes from who we are and we just need to be ourselves – our deepest, realest self. ‘My real self is God’, as the great mystic Gertrude said.
So maybe it’s not a matter of striving to attain something but of being – and living out of – who we truly are. As Rabbi Herschel said: ‘Only to be is a blessing. Only to live is holy’.
So let’s BE and LIVE to the full.
Genevieve Mooney OP