Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. ~ Leviticus 19:2
The Catholic Church calls all of us to Universal Holiness! In the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium , it states,
“We must follow in the footsteps of Christ and conform ourselves to his image seeking the will of the Father in all things. We must devote ourselves to the Glory of God and the service of neighbor.”
In order for the graces of the Holy Spirit to work within me for the Glory of God and the love of neighbor I must have a proper disposition to approaching God which means I must “die to self”. At the river Jordan, John the Baptist says in John 3:30,
He must increase, but I must decrease
St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians 2:20,
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
Our openness to God, and his grace, and life in the spirit can be difficult and made impossible if we continue our attachment to sin and continue to carry deep emotional scars from our past. Our pride, ego and worldly desires will destroy the supernatural life in our soul, if we let it, yet God is full of mercy and grace.
Jesus gives us hope in our call to holiness, by forgiving our sins and restoring us to new intimacy with him. Through the initial sacrament of Baptism we are made a new creation, given a new life and called adopted children in the Holy family of God. In the daily Christian struggles we at many times sin and fail in this calling! Only by the mercy of God, in the continuing process of reconciliation or confession, can we continue to remain in his grace and mercy after sin.
We read in the Gospel of St. John 20:23, Jesus gives the apostles the mission to not only forgive sins, but also to retain sins. In speaking to the Church of believers at Corinth, St. Paul states in 2 Cor. 5:18, the work of reconciliation to God is entrusted to the apostles in the ministry of reconciliation. And then adds in verse 20,
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
In confession, it is Jesus himself, we meet who forgives us through the ministry of the priesthood. All those sins we commit after baptism are forgiven. We are reconciled to God and the Church and to ourselves. It is then that the Holy Spirit can continue to be fruitful in our lives.
“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” St. Augustine, Confessions
Confession is not easy, it can be downright embarrassing and uncomfortable. The world seeks to satisfy you by giving you comfort in your sins, but just as Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed,
The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!
It is through the sacraments of the Church and living in cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit and frequent confession that we conform to this “greatness” and remain temples of the Holy Spirit. It is a lifelong conversion process; but by living in the Spirit, in self-control and good habits, God has the ability to transform not only our lives, but the hearts and lives of society, and we answer the Church’s call to Universal Holiness.
Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ~1 Peter 1:14-16