Have you ever pondered the definition of holiness? Of what it means to be holy as God is holy? I just finished skimming two definitions from a couple of Bible Dictionaries, and I must say, I am still at a loss. Then, I stumbled across a quote from Elizabeth of the Trinity:
“Be holy for I am holy! It seems to me that this is the very same wish expressed on the day of creation when God said: “Let us make man in Our image and likeness.” It is always the desire of the creator to identify and associate His creature with Himself!”
There are those who say that humans maintained their image of God after the fall, but lost the likeness. There are a few different interpretations of this, but I’ll share my favorite one. I found it when I was trying to understand what Jesus meant in Mark 10:18 where he said, “only God is good.” What I found was this understanding – God is good (image) and does good (likeness). Humans are good, but don’t always do good. Using this as a point of reference, one way of understanding our call to holiness is our call to be Christ-like.
On the one hand, that is depressing. I’m no longer young, and I see that all of my attempts to do so have failed. There is something within me that keeps me from doing good in all instances. In fact, I’m not even to a point of wanting to good in all instances, although I can say I want to want to do good in all instances.
I recently heard a presentation on free choice according to Thomas Aquinas. The discussion explained the operation of the intellect and the will. The intellect determines what is good. The will desires the good and delights when it obtains the good. As I pondered what I heard, I came to think that a human’s judgment is flawed either in regards to what it thinks is good and/or in how it prioritizes goods. In other words, created goods in some instances take priority over the greatest good, which is God.
From here, I pondered how one might retrain the intellect and the will so that God might move to the top of the list. I think the first part of the answer involves the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier. It is his job to make us holy. At the same time, we have a part to play. Our part involves doing what Jesus demanded of all of his disciples – die to self and carry crosses. Mark 8:34. The more we do so, the more detached we become from lesser goods. Maybe this detachment allows us to choose the greater good. Interestingly enough, this is also a practice that allows the Holy Spirit more room to work within us.
I will close with a final thought. If the will’s job is to delight in the goods when obtained, then maybe we should spend time delighting when we choose correctly. It is easy to delight in our favorite foods and in obtaining some wonderful gadget from Amazon, but do we take the time to delight in choosing God and his way? Maybe if we did, we would be more open to choosing the greatest good.
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit pondering your own understanding of holiness. Ask him what you can do to become more like our God who made us in his image and likeness. Spend some time delighting in his presence and in his desire to make you holy.