I would like to share a few thoughts with you on the subject of holiness. As a young boy growing up in Boston, I could never really feel at ease with those saints in the past that could endure great physical suffering, went on long fasts, beat themselves. For me to go to the dentist and have a needle placed in my mouth was always something I studiously avoided. But we know from history, from different cultures, from different educational values, that people approach this subject of holiness in various ways and use various methods. But over the years you see qualities in personalities, you see traits that indicate that a person does have a degree of holiness that you do not see in others. What qualities should be singled out? What qualities should a person try to cultivate to achieve holiness similar to that of Christ?
The first quality that should be singled out is the quality of charity. When you study the life of Christ, when you study the gospel of John about the life of Christ, it is charity that is talked about over and over. When Christ said, by this command shall all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another; and when he said, a new commandment I give you that you love one another as I have loved you; he was reminding us that there is nothing greater in his eyes than the charity you bring into the lives of others. Charity is forgiveness. Charity is kindness. Charity is the beautiful epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians and is the foundation for holiness of life.
The second quality that is so important and often lost today is that of plain honesty. To be able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is just an extension of the quality of honesty that was so prevalent in the life of Christ. How many of our people in the public eye will fudge, will hedge , will beat all around the bush and rarely give you an honest answer? When you see an honest person who is totally genuine, who has no pretense, no mask, no affectation, you are seeing one who had that unusual quality of Christ, the quality of honesty. You will find that person has an unusual value system and in that value system you will find a degree of holiness that makes him special.
Another quality that should be singled out if a person is trying to grow in holiness is that of respect - respect for the other. If you read the writings of Albert Schweitzer from the Belgian Congo he made his staff aware that all life was sacred, that all life was deserving of respect. The unborn, the aged, the sick, the homeless all are made to the image and likeness of God. When you see a person showing this reverence and respect you are seeing another characteristic of holiness.
The final quality that should be cultivated in order to become a Christ-like personality and achieve holiness of life is that of tolerance. We are part of a theology of Christ that tells us to forgive seventy times a day. We are part of a theology of Christ that tells us to love one another as Christ has loved us. No one has a right to be intolerant because of the religious background a person has, a coloration of skin a person has. Christ died for everyone on Good Friday. His words to those who were intolerant of him were, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Where does this sense of superiority come from that allows us to judge others, to look down our noses at others, to think that we are better than others? There is no doubting the fact that there will be people in life whom we all meet that we have very little in common with, mannerisms that we do not like. Christ met such people during the course of his life. This is no perfect world. To tolerate them is our role, just as other people might be tolerating us. To put up with them might be our cross, the way other people might be tolerating us. To judge them unkindly without all the facts that should be needed in such a judgment is merely adding a new dimension of hatred in a world that has too much hatred already. You have to say like Christ, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
These are some of the norms that help us achieve holiness, help us on our journey back to God. Why single out the quality of charity, honesty, respect, inspiration, sacrifice and tolerance? The answer should be obvious. If you take the first letter of each one of these qualities -
C of charity
Those qualities cultivated on this earth will enable us to live with the Christ who cultivated them when he walked this earth. And these qualities are worth cultivating.
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