The most important goal of every parish is to assist its people in responding to the call to holiness. While this might at first strike us as a bit beyond us, and meant only for true saints, it actually what the Lord is inviting us to experience through our relationship with Him. To be holy is a gift. We are pretty well acquainted with our own limitations and sinfulness, yet God’s love for us and His grace make the call to holiness real and possible. We hear in the First Letter of Peter: “As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’ ” (I Peter 1:15-16).
Living a holy life is being faithful to our vocation, given to us in baptism, as children of God. Growing in holiness is doing the will of God. While it is not always easy to discern what God’s will is for me, we orient ourselves toward it by reflecting on the scripture, praying on a daily basis, celebrating the sacraments and acting always in a spirit of love for others. Pope Benedict XVI expressed it in these words: “Christian holiness is nothing other than the virtue of charity lived to its fullest. In the pursuit of holiness, we allow the seed of God’s life and love to be cultivated by hearing His word and putting it into practice, by prayer and the celebration of the sacraments, by sacrifice and service of our brothers and sisters.”
When we take this consideration to heart in our reflection of God’s word, we begin to hear Jesus speak to us as perhaps never before. In the Gospel this Sunday from Mark, Jesus challenges us to make choices that are for Him and not against Him. The entire second part of Mark’s gospel is about who Jesus is and what it costs to be His disciple. To be Jesus’ disciples necessitates losing some things, and cutting some things out of our lives. This cutting off is a kind of dying, a being “against” something that takes us away from Jesus so that we can be “for” Jesus. The Kingdom of God is so important that we must do everything and anything we can – great and small – to bring it about. Our striving for the Kingdom that Jesus speaks about is our holiness, our spirituality, our living out a decision to be for Christ. That being for Christ is born in the community of faith, but then realized in how we treat others each and every day.
What does this call to holiness mean for you? Are you seeking Christ and the Kingdom in concrete, visible ways each day? As a parish, we are a “school of discipleship”. We are living and doing for Christ when we provide each person with the help necessary to fulfill his or her own call.
Building on the gifts and talents of each parishioner, as a parish we encourage and support the role we have received to work for a Kingdom where all can be welcome, where all can feel worthwhile, where all live in peace and harmony. If this seems farfetched, it’s only because we don’t take Jesus seriously. It’s all about His grace at work in us as we strive to be holy.