Be Holy As Your Heavenly Father is Holy

During the weekend retreat I gave for UST undergraduates this weekend on Developing the Beatitudes in our Lives, Fr. Patrick Tobin of Campus Ministry was our presider at liturgies (as well as being available for the sacrament of Reconciliation for the students and just generally being present for all of us).

The Gospel for yesterday’s Mass was Jesus teaching to his disciples to go beyond what the law had demanded of them. “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil….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.” The passage ends with Jesus direction to his disciples to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Fr. Tobin translated that last line as a command that we “Be holy, just as your heavenly Father is holy.”

Interesting choice, he suggested. God could have invited us to be like him in all sorts of ways; God is a lot of things. God has many qualities he could have invited us to imitate.

But God doesn’t say, “Be self-sufficient, just as your Father is self-sufficient.” Instead, as we learn in the Beatitudes we are invited to recognize our dependence on God.

God doesn’t say, “Be adored, just as your Father is adored.” God doesn’t say, “Be popular.” Instead, we get, Happy are you when they persecute you because of me.

God doesn’t say, “Be a winner, as I the Lord your God can win over all of my enemies.” Instead, the Beatitudes teach us to be meek.

God doesn’t say, “Be just as your Father is just.” Instead, he invites us to mercy.

Too often, Fr. Patrick suggested, we try to embrace other aspects of God, deciding, for example, that we ought to imitate the deadly wrath of God. Or the strength and power of God.

God, however, doesn’t invite us to any of those things. The only thing he asks us to imitate is his holiness. And our blueprint for becoming more like unto God in holiness is given to us by Jesus in the Beatitudes.

It was a wonderful sermon to round out our weekend. And stay tuned: I’ll post some podcasts of my retreat talks sometime this week – as soon as I get a chance to upload them.