6th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: Feb. 12, 2023
If someone was becoming Catholic and was wondering what they needed to do, how would you answer? One basic response could be this, “Be Holy.” Become a Saint. Being Catholic is a call to be holy.
The problem is that many of us think that being holy is for the great saints. Being holy is for some important person, it is for somebody else. A simple person like me is not holy. Often because we have a false idea of what it means to be holy. If we want to understood what it is to be holy, we need to look to Jesus.
What does Jesus mean by holiness? Actually, people often misunderstood Jesus, it seems they did not think he was clear enough. For some he was ambiguous. In our gospel today Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets.” It seems that some thought that Jesus was not following the law and the prophets. That he was not faithful to the truth of their religious tradition.
The religious elites, the rich, the powerful leaders and even his own disciples often misunderstood Jesus and felt that he was not faithful to God’s truth. It was the poor, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the so-called public sinners who seemed to understand what Jesus was saying and doing.
Why did some not understand Jesus. Think about how Jesus acted. He forgave the woman caught in adultery and refused to condemn her. He allowed the woman who was a public sinner to wash his feet, scandalizing the pharisee who saw it. He healed people on the Sabbath day, upsetting those who said he was breaking the Sabbath law. He forgave the sins of the paralyzed man, which was an act of God.
Jesus revealed the face of God as the face of mercy. He was only harsh with those who were being harsh with others. He was not abolishing the law and prophets but bringing out the fullness and depth of the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God did not exist to condemn, to separate, to reject. The goal of God is communion, connection, unity and harmony in all creation and among all people.
For Jesus, holiness was to live in the depth and wisdom of God. It is not about piety, coming to church, saying long prayers. In the depths of God is unity and harmony. This is why Jesus takes sin very seriously.
In fact, he uses extreme language and images. “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out,” “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” Sin is so serious because it leads to division, it breaks relationships, it leads to disunity. Sin destroys harmony and leads to disorder rather than harmony. Sin leads away from the vision of God for the universe.
It is why Jesus says, before you come to worship God, “if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,” go first and “be reconciled with your brother or sister.”
So, Be Holy. Be a Saint. Be an instrument of unity. True holiness is not about condemning or rejecting others whom you consider evil or wrong. True holiness always leads to communion among people, it leads to harmony in relationships.
If you want to be holy, then look at your relationships and strive for harmony and peace. Be reconciled with others. Be faithful to your commitments. Each Catholic is called to be Holy, to be a Saint. Real holiness enters the depth of the wisdom of God, it leads to communion, harmony and faithful love.