“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” — Ephesians 1:4
“…as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’.” — 1 Peter 1:15-16
“For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” — Leviticus 11:44
“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” — Leviticus 19:2
As we come to the halfway point in this Lenten season it appears that we have been called to a formidable task. How can we even begin to meet the demands of being built into a holy Temple for the Lord? We would inevitably come up short if we were to attempt to meet the challenge of pursuing excellence and becoming Christlike in our own power. Without God, we would fail. However, we know that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Mark 9:23; 10:27).
The reconstruction of God’s Holy Temple, then, can only be achieved when we are submitted to God’s purpose and plan for each one of us. Each brick must be made of the right material, and any impurities must be burned away. It is important, therefore, for God to cleanse and purify us that we may be built by Him into His Holy Temple. In the Ephesians passage quoted above, we are told by Paul that “we should be holy and blameless…” We are to be set apart by God, for His Kingdom. Another way to state that is found in the Rule of St. Benedict (4:20-21): “Your way of acting should be different from worldly ways. The love of Christ must be preferred to all else.” When we put Christ first, we will behave in a way that differs from the behavior of those who are in the world and without Christ. This process of becoming holy is what we will examine as we study the virtues of this coming week.
Today is known as “Laetare Sunday”. The name comes from the introit (the beginning of the liturgy) in the Latin Mass for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. As the clergy enter the sanctuary, these verses are sung:
Rejoice, O Jerusalem; and gather round, all you who love her; rejoice in gladness, after having been in sorrow; exult and be replenished with the consolation flowing from her motherly bosom. I rejoiced when it was said unto me: ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ (Isaiah 66:10; Psalm 122:1)
The Lord wants us to be “replenished” and to persevere. There is more work to be accomplished in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. So “Let us go to the house of the Lord” for it is there that we will receive the encouragement, provision, and replenishment necessary to do the work that God has called us to do.
As we move forward through this pilgrimage of Lent, let us look at what God desires of us in becoming holy, and let us rejoice! For God is doing His work in us that we may be remade in His image. As St. Peter reminds us in his first epistle (2:5), “you yourselves like living stones are being built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” God is doing the work and we are being built up. He is making us holy so that we may be built into a “spiritual house”. For it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). All of this does appear to be a formidable task if we move our focus away from Him. But as Jesus declared to His disciples, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).