“Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” This Sunday’s quotation from Leviticus gives us a good preparatory meditation as we enter into the Season of Lent. Our holiness (our desire to be set apart for God) and our care for others are both rooted in the holiness of God. God is completely separate from this world.
To be holy is to be set apart or reserved for a higher purpose. We devote a special place in our community for the worship of God--our church. In our homes we set aside a place for prayer, a chapel or shrine. We decorate these sacred spaces with more care than other places. Our finest decorations will usually be found there. We give the best we have to God. Certain people are also set apart for service to God; our bishops, priests, and deacons are ordained (set apart in God’s order) for this purpose. Other persons dedicate themselves to prayer as consecrated Virgins and religious Brothers and Sisters. These persons are set apart from the rest of our ordinary lives.
These consecrated persons and places are quite often also dedicated to works of charity for those in particular need. Religious orders are frequently organized around operating schools and hospitals; churches serve as places of refuge for the lost and the lonely. It is no accident that we use the word ‘sanctuary’ to refer to a place of rest or safety and for a place dedicated to God.
Lent is a season set apart from the rest of our year for us to pay particular attention to God. It is a penitential season that draws us to recognize our sins and our need for God’s mercy. We take on extra voluntary penances to show our desire to grow in holiness. Many of these penances are acts of charity toward those less fortunate than us. Our fasting frees us to offer more to our hungry brothers and sisters. We give alms, not to impoverish ourselves but to enrich others in Christ’s name. We pray, not for our own needs, but for the sake of the souls in Purgatory as well as those suffering various torments here on this earth. All of our Lenten actions are designed to draw our hearts closer to God and to the spiritually and physically poor. A good Lenten resolution, then, is one that is not about me, but one that challenges me to greater love for God and my neighbor. May our resolutions reflect our honest desire to grow in love and our wholehearted response to God’s invitation to holiness.