To be holy is to desire what God desires, to want what He wants.
Sometimes I fear that holiness can be too grand, too much an impossibility for me. That’s because it is too grand, I suppose. To be holy as God is holy is just, frankly, intimidating. It is common to be scared to be holy, worried about how our lives will change if we put the “former” in “desires of our former ignorance.”
We can sometimes forget that Christ, while a holy God, is also a holy human. As the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it, “He was what I am.” Why are we holy? Because Christ is holy. “Be holy because I am holy.”
Holiness is not a vague state somewhere up there. We are in Christ’s holiness already, if we could only look around and believe it. Whatever we do this Lent, the point is not to increase our will-power but to increase our self-knowledge as loved sinners, to free ourselves from what blinds us to how our holy God draws us close and holds us fast. In that moment of realization we can pray with the poet Hopkins:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is,
since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd,
patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.
—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching English at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, Detroit MI. He is also a published poet.