At the Twenty-Ninth Reno Diocesan Conference held on 14 January of this year at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks, Nevada, Bishop Calvo gave the concluding Mass homily on “The Call to Holiness.” Our Bishop began by correctly pointing out that the Second Vatican Council opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962, or coming on fifty years ago, this October. “Holiness” in modern English tends to be a very vague word, almost devoid of meaning. What does “Holy” mean? The root Latin word means, “To declare or set apart as sacred; to consecrate, dedicate, or devote to a divinity.” In that case, what does it mean when God says, “Be Holy, as I am holy?” “וְהִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים, כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אָנִי” “Sancti estote, quia ego sanctus sum.” In this sense, the key word is used “Mostly of legal ordinances or other public proceedings, to fix unalterably; to establish, appoint, decree, ordain; also, to make irrevocable or unalterable; to enact, confirm, ratify, sanction.”
The key Hebrew word, “קָדוֹשׁ” refers to weddings. The groom, God, removes the dedicated person or objects from the common ground, and separates it, to himself. God is Holy, as he is the groom. The Bride of Christ/God, is the church. She is dedicated as she is the bride. The sacraments are holy as they remind us of that wedding. We are holy in the sense that we are the children of God, the children of the marriage between God and his church.
The Second Vatican Council was a pivotal point in the way we viewed this understanding of our concept of “Holy.” Before the Second Vatican Council, the Pope, the Bishop, the priests, and the called religious were, “Holy.” The rest of us were lay people. The “Holy” people did the work of the church and the lay people attended Mass on Sunday.
The Second Vatican Council changed all of that. Now the children do the chores and the leadership of the church, lead. What is the job that we are led to do? Deuteronomy 30:11-19 tells us, “This Mitzvah I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you… it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart.” “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” The command is to bring life in its fullest to all people.
The Bishop correctly related that our word for “Disciple” is related to our word for “Discipline” which means, not punishment, but learning. Relating this to the first reading, the Bishop related that to learn, we must listen. When we recite our rosaries as fast as we can, God cannot hear us; there is nothing to hear. When we meditate upon the words, listen, God works with us as we strive to bring life into our world.
Deuteronomy 4:5-8 relates, “I teach you the customs and judicial precedents as the Personal Name, my Mighty Judge, commanded me, that you may guard them in the land you are entering. Guard them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these customs and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.”What great nation is there that has judges so close to it as the Personal Name, our Mighty Judge, is to us whenever we call upon him? What great nation has customs and judicial precedents that are as just as this Torah which I set before you this day?”
We are “Holy when we live our lives in such a way that others will want to be like us. The Bishop referred to Matthew 25:31-46 where Matthew refers to the corporal works of mercy, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and those in prison, clothing the naked. We do not do this out of a sense of obligation. We do this because we remember what it is like to be sick, hungry, in prison, or naked. Some have never experienced this? Jesus experienced all of these things and in our Eucharist, we relive the Passion of Jesus Christ. We suffer with him; we die with him, and we rise with him as the priest says, “Mitte Est!” as we leave the church at the end of Mass.
We fulfill the Mitzvah as we live lives of joy even as we undergo the trials and tribulations of life. In the process, people look at us and say, “What great religion/nation is there that has judges so close to it as the Personal Name, our Mighty Judge, is to us whenever we call upon him? What great religion/nation has customs and judicial precedents that are as just as this Torah which I set before you this day?” Note that St. Matthew does not say, “Religion,” or “Individual” but “Nation.” The Greek word is the same word from which we get “Ethnic.” The Latin word, “Nation” means a people born together, if not by blood, and not by location of birth, it is by people of a shared heritage, which we receive in our Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to our Constitution, The Battle hymn of the Republic, and the words on our Statue of Liberty. We have only to ask ourselves, “Do we live these words in our hearts?”