"Holiness is more than being 'Nice,'" headlines a recent blog post
from Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., who blogs for the archdiocese. Holiness, Pope said, has been reduced to being "basically a nice person," someone who gets along with everyone, does not upset anyone, is even-tempered, amiable, generous and so on.
But Pope sees myriad problems with this philosophy, especially for Catholics, as holiness means something else entirely. His blog post and an accompanying clip from a homily expound on the following points:
- Holiness should be our goal in life. The goal in life is not just to be a "great guy" or a "nice person." We are called to something far greater: awesome, radical holiness.
- Holiness does not compromise the truth. We cannot remain silent simply to get along. Christ "did not end up on the Cross because he was 'basically a nice person.'" Rather, "He was a prophet. He agitated. He introduced tension. He demanded obedience."
- Holiness speaks the truth in love. Jesus called sinners to repentance, as "Jesus was no fool, and he didn't just go around slapping everyone's back and being nice." He demanded change and obedience, but he offered it in love.
- Holiness has enemies. It is not about being popular. Instead, holiness will meet resistance, and we will face hostility. We should not necessarily seek out conflict, but we cannot run from it either.
- Holiness lives a Christian witness. Being holy necessitates a life both in a word and deed that is "an irritant to a world that demands compromise with evil, approval of sin, and silence about faith."
- Holiness negates neutrality. No one can remain neutral in the face of a holy person. True holiness ignites a fire, and people either "complain of the heat or draw warmth."
- Holiness is not human. Holiness is divine. It is something far more "exalted, and glorious, and tremendous, and radical, and we reduce it just basically being nice."
- Holiness requires complete transformation. It changes us and forms us to be more and more like Christ: "True holiness brings an increasingly radical transformation."
Will it be uncomfortable? Yes. Will it be difficult? Yes. But Jesus did not live a life of mediocrity. The saints did not placate those around them. If we truly wish to imitate Christ, we must challenge ourselves to grow in true holiness and discipleship.
That means deepening our relationship with Christ, rooting out our imperfections and going out and sharing the love of Christ. That love, however, is a love that desires eternal life and union with God for the other person. That kind of love does not leave someone in a state of sin. Rather, it challenges others to also grow in holiness and live radical lives of transformation.
As Pope Francis said at World Youth Day, "I expect a mess. … I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out to the street! I want us to defend ourselves against everything that is worldliness, that is installation, that is comfortableness, that is clericalism, that is being shut-in on ourselves."
Let's stop being nice. Let's make a mess.
Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.