In Leviticus 19, God tells Moses to speak to his people, and say to them: "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy" (v2). Then God tells the Israelites many specific rules by which they should live their lives - things God expects them to do. Among these is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (v18). Jesus later defines for us who "neighbor" is (Luke 10:29-37) and increases the required level of our love, when he revealed a clearer image of our holy God.
In chapter 5 of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples in the manner which God told Moses to teach the Israelites but with a clearer image of God who is holy, or in other words his New Testament.
He gives us the Beatitudes, the similes of salt and light, teachings on the law, anger, adultery, divorce, oaths and retaliation and love of our enemies.
Just as Jesus redefined for us who "neighbor" is in the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus redefines for us the attitude we should take toward our enemy; "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (v43). Jesus repeats the Old Testament admonition of God to the Israelites, "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God am holy", in the way which reflects our status as God's daughters and sons; "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (v48). To be truly holy is to be perfect.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds the Corinthians and us, that we are holy because we belong to God, sanctified (1:2) through baptism in which we are born again into the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are holy temples of God for the Spirit of God dwells in us (3:16). "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Our work, our liturgy for the Lord is to be holy, to keep our temple holy. Be wise. Be well-practiced in the ways of the Lord. Be wise enough to know how to negotiate your way through the ways of the world but do not make the ways of the world your goal. Our goal is heaven with God. Our belief is in the power of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection and the confirmation of this belief is in the actions we take to be holy, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Let us pray for the grace of God in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors and our enemies.
(Paul R. Bachi is a deacon at St. Mark Catholic Church. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper.)