11 Oct How to maintain the Holiness of God within us?
In the Gospel of Luke Chapter 6, we read about the disciples who were hungry and begin to pluck and eat grain on the Sabbath (which was not lawful to do on the Sabbath) and how Jesus justifies their act when the Pharisees question him.
Human beings are not for Sabbath but the Sabbath is for human beings.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were always critical about everything what Jesus did. They always complained and gossiped about what Jesus did. They idolized certain rituals and laws of Moses. Jesus was against idolizing the law and idolizing the Sabbath, and he said human beings are not for Sabbath but the Sabbath is for human beings.
Around 2000 years have passed since the time of Jesus, but the teaching of Jesus should not be diluted over the years. The teaching is still fresh and the Bible is still the same. Sometimes the interpretation gets manipulated, diluted and adulterated and in the end, it can slowly disappear. This is what happens to most of the religions in the world but this should not happen to Christianity.
We celebrate the death of Jesus in every Holy Eucharist. We all love Jesus, we all have our own rubrics and rituals for every Holy Mass, and every spiritual activity, but the Lord says, more than all these, the love of God, the love of human beings, compassion and mercy should persist and continue.
Jesus saw that his disciples were violating the Sabbath by eating the wheat, because they were hungry and had not eaten for a long time. Jesus kept quiet because for Him, compassion was more important than the law. Some people, who did not know that the disciples had not eaten for many days, started criticizing the act of the disciples, which Jesus justified.
The Lord says that He is the Master of the Sabbath. Sometimes we do not listen to the Master and instead we follow the laws, forgetting the Master. However, the voice of the Master is more important than anything that is written. Jesus says that compassion and mercy is more important than sacrifice.
Rules and laws should not become our idols
We read of Saint Vincent de Paul, who during his time did many great works, almost equal to what Saint Mother Teresa did. He took care of thousands of poor people wherever he was especially in Paris, France. In the 16th century, it was not so easy to do charity and to reach out to many people due to the lack of facilities we now have in this modern world. Even though he did not have much money and struggled each day to feed the poor people, he did not deny any of them but took care of all of them.
He had some women followers who were helping him (a religious congregation that he started) and sometimes when these women were not able to help the sick people in dire need (due to their own religious duties and obligations, which they had to follow), he told them that these poor people were their masters. When the women explained to him that they had to first perform their religious duties, which they could not skip, he said that sometimes it is good to forget God for God and told them to leave their prayer aside and to go and take care of the poor.
This is exactly what Jesus was telling the people. Sometimes the rule and law become idols in front of us and we forget the empty stomachs standing in front of us. Just as the Pharisees were looking at the law when the disciples were eating the grains on empty stomachs. We can see these contradictions in our own spiritual life. Sometimes we hold onto certain unnecessary things forgetting the bigger things – the truth.
For example, some people worship the Eucharist so solemnly during Adoration but may not value Jesus as much when He comes without the gold plated monstrance, accompaniments, lights, candles and incense. They may fail to see the divinity of God in the Eucharist during Mass. This is a big contradiction. We need to rethink about our spiritual life and our spirituality.
Give the best for anything connected to God
We see many people busy spending time and money to decorate and maintain their parish churches and cathedrals. For example, we spend a lot of money to maintain our Christian historical sites and heritage buildings and would go to any extent to maintain it but inside the Church, there could be a rusted altar, chalice, paten, and worn-out altar cloths. These are the most precious things. It is not the temple, which makes it holy. It is the Lord Jesus who comes inside the chalice and paten and makes the temple holy. We forget this fact. Hence we focus on beautifying only the outside but how many of us have sponsored a new chalice, paten, altar cloth or new altar – anything that is used for the service of God? These are the things that are used for God.
The holy things should be the holy ones and the best ones. The money should be spent for this more than anything else. If these holy things are not holy, every parishioner is responsible and answerable in front of God, not just the parish priest who may not have money to buy all these things. It is the duty of the parishioners to support the priest in buying all these things. What is the use of decorating our homes, when the home of our God is not decorated properly? What is the use when the house of the Lord, the Tabernacle of the Lord, the chalice, paten and altar of the Lord are not kept clean?
We need to make sure that anything that is given to God, used for God and surrendered to God is the best.
We may give old or torn notes during the offertory but when we visit a friend, we tend to buy the best. When we go to the church, remember we are not going to meet a beggar sitting on the roadside whom we would normally give the old coins and useless notes, but we are going to meet the King of Kings and we are celebrating the Holy Eucharist of the Lord of Lords, the Lord of this universe. Therefore, always make sure to give the best for God. We should always give the best for anything connected to God.
Do not take anything that is Holy for granted
We read in the Book of Malachi 1:6 ‘ A son honors his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, “How have we despised your name?’
Here the Word of God is correcting the priests. The Lord is angry with the priests because they are not honoring the Lord. This priesthood consists not only of the ministerial priesthood but also of the royal priesthood. All those who have received baptism have the royal priesthood and participate in the royal priesthood of Christ. We have a duty to honor our Master and Lord. We honor and respect our spiritual fathers, parish priests, bishops, elders, political leaders, police officers and everyone who is due respect but the Lord says where is the respect and honor due me ? Sometimes, even when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, we do not feel like bowing down and spending time in adoration.
We read in the Book of Malachi 1:7 ‘By offering polluted food on my altar. And you say, “How have we polluted it?” By thinking that the Lord’s table may be despised.’ We may not care about what is being offered on the altar. We think it is the responsibility of the parish priest. We need to make sure the holy things used in our parish church are the best. Even in case the parish priest forgets, we should take the initiative of getting the best. We should not place the body and blood of our Lord Jesus in a rusted paten or chalice.
We are taking the holy table and everything that is holy for granted. Think about your own home – where are all the consecrated things which are blessed by a priest like the Holy Bible, the rosary, medals, Holy Water, etc. kept, and what is the respect we give to it? Let your children see the respect we give to all consecrated things. When you pass by your altar at home, remember and feel the presence of God there. Let your children see you standing in front of your altar and making the sign of the cross. Even when we are busy doing many things at home, let us take a minute to stand in front of the altar and talk to the Lord. Let your children see, learn, study and come up this way.
By thinking that the Lords table may be despised, you are polluting the altar. In the book of Malachi 1:8 we read ‘ When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong?’. According to the Jewish law, they could only sacrifice an unblemished lamb – the perfect lamb. However, some of them manipulated and painted the lambs, as they did not want to give the best for God. They manipulated the sacrifices in such a way that no one noticed it. When you do not give the best for God, you are defiling and defaming Gods’ name. This is the second commandment ‘do not use the name of God in vain’. It means that we have to give whatever named after God and for God, the utmost care and respect. If you do not give the best for God, you are degrading His name.
Anything dedicated to God should be dealt with care
In the book Leviticus 22:2, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying ‘ Direct Aaron and his sons to deal carefully with the sacred donations of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they may not profane my holy name; I am the Lord’.
Anything that is dedicated to God should be carefully dealt with. What is dedicated to God is not only donations but all the things in the Church, even the priests and religious who are dedicated and set apart for God. If not, we are profaning the name of God. It is a sin against the second commandment. Donations does not mean not only the money and things but also the people who are dedicated and set apart for God, and even the Eucharistic ministers behavior and attitude in front of the community.
What will happen to those who deal with the Holy Eucharist carelessly? We read in Leviticus Verse 3 ‘Say to them: If anyone among all your offspring throughout your generations comes near the sacred donations, which the people of Israel dedicate to the Lord, while he is in a state of uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the Lord.’ Anybody who comes to serve the Lord, should be holy or else they will lose the presence, protection and anointing of God.
In the Book of Numbers 18:32 we read ‘You shall incur no guilt by reason of it, when you have offered the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the Israelites, on pain of death’. Even if you are going to die, do not desecrate the holy things.
In the book of Leviticus 5:14-15: ‘The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: When any of you commit a trespass and sin unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord, you shall bring, as your guilt offering to the Lord, a ram without blemish from the flock, convertible into silver by the sanctuary shekel; it is a guilt offering’. You have to do penance, even if you unknowingly commit sin because it is not God who is punishing us, it is the sin that is punishing us. You cannot argue in front of the devil, he is waiting for a prey and victim. If it is God who is punishing us for our sins, we will be saved. He will never do that. He will find an excuse to save us but the devil is destroying us and bringing the consequences for our sins and he is trying his best to take hold of us. Even if you commit sin unknowingly, there will be consequences. The Lord wants to help us and tells us to repent and that he will save us, stand for us, argue for us and justify us.
Priests have to teach the people the importance of holiness
In the book of Deuteronomy 32:51 , God said to Moses and Aaron ‘because both of you broke faith with me among the Israelites at the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, by failing to maintain my holiness among the Israelites.’
All the priests are responsible and accountable in front of God if they are not able to maintain the holiness of God among the people. It is the duty of every priest to teach the people what is right and what is wrong. You have to understand the pain of a priest; it is not easy to correct people openly because they may feel hurt, even if it is done with lots of humility and respect. They may still react. That is why many priests are forced to keep quiet but it their responsibility to correct them, even if the people persecute them.
In the book of Ezekiel 22:26 we read ‘Its priests have done violence to my teaching and have profaned my holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them’.
The people are not taught about the respect and reverence they should give when they come for the Holy Mass, the dress code that they should follow and the way to receive Holy Communion. Sometimes these violations take place in front of the priest and the priest is forced to keep quiet. All those who are responsible in forcing the priest to keep quiet will be answerable and accountable in front of God. The Lord says He is profaned among the priests because they are not teaching the people what is right and wrong.
In the same way, the parents have to teach their children what is right and wrong, even if it hurts them, the children should be told lovingly. Maybe the children are not aware of the importance of holiness or of how much Jesus sacrificed and how he died for us all on Calvary.
Your camp must be Holy
In the book of Deuteronomy 23:14, we read ‘Because the Lord your God travels along with your camp, to save you and to hand over your enemies to you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you’.
Your camp means your home – wherever you are. The Lord is coming to protect and save you and hand over your enemies to you. There is a condition that your camp must be holy, your home, your room, your body, your mobile phone and computer and everything you have should be holy.
If there is anything unholy and indecent amongst you, God will turn away from you. God has turned away from many families. The moment the Lord wants to step into your house, the devils are already there inside – the evil spirits of smoking, alcohol, drugs, immorality, lust, unholy relationships, hatred and revenge are already living in our homes. Then where is the room for God?
We have a tradition, according to the law of the Church, that if any desecration has taken place in any holy place, then that cannot be used for anything holy anymore, unless and until it is consecrated again.
If your house is considered as holy, and something unholy has taken place in it, how can you expect the blessing of the Lord without consecrating it again? How can you pray there without consecrating it again? Even if you pray, how can you believe that your prayer will reach heaven, because this home is already desecrated? That is why in the Church, we have the tradition of inviting the priest once in a while to consecrate and bless the home. It is not a formality but something that is needed. Therefore, the Lord says that your camp must be holy so that He may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.
In the Book of Leviticus 26:12 we read ‘And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people’.The Lord says I will walk around among you and in your house, as I am your Father, I am your Master. If you really believe this Word of God, how can you keep your room, your house or anything in your house unholy? And how can you expect God to come in your home which is already desecrated with so many immoral activities and with so many evil things and then you also want to welcome the Holy Spirit.
In the Book of Wisdom 6:10 we read
‘For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness,
and those who have been taught them will find a defense’. If you observe holy things in holiness, the Lord will make you holy – the Holy Eucharist, your family prayer, the holy things in your home should be dealt with, kept and used in holiness, and then you will made holy.
In the Book of Ezekiel 44:8 we read ‘And you have not kept charge of my sacred offerings; but you have appointed foreigners[a] to act for you in keeping my charge in my sanctuary.’ God says I am watching everyone whom you have put in charge and unholy people should not be dealing with holy things.
The need to evangelize
In the Book of Ezekiel 34:8 we read ‘As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep;’. Another problem that the Church faces is that we are busy maintaining our own communities, being satisfied with what we have. We have no desire for evangelization, reaching out and saving the souls. We Christians have lost the zeal for the Word of God. We are only trying to maintain our own families and after that we are happy and satisfied but we do not have any compassion, mercy or a spirit of evangelization like Saint Mother Teresa had or like Saints Peter and Paul who sacrificed their lives for the whole humanity by going around and preaching the Gospel and converting the people. Remember the missionary work is not just restricted to the priests and nuns; it is the duty of every baptized Christian.
Let us examine our conscience and see where we stand. We are not even able to educate and evangelize our own husbands, wives, and children. We have already failed in our own families.
Let us ask forgiveness from God and tell Him we are sorry that we have failed in our duty and responsibility. ‘Lord, I have become a small island in my own family and with my own preoccupied desires. I am sorry Lord. Help me to be compassionate and merciful. Help me to be an evangelist, to reach out to people and help me to have the zeal to save the souls of this world.’
Transcribed talk of Father Joseph Edattu VC.
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