A dear friend of mine recently attended a theological lecture where one punch line among many was to ‘run from the person who appears holy.’ The point, I was told, was not to emphasize anything but the fact that when holiness is palpable it is most likely false, and if false contrived, and if contrived guilty of hiding something much worse than the less than perfect spiritual life.
Needless to say, this sent some in the audience scrambling, as they frantically tried to reconcile what they had just heard with the palpable holiness of figures such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta and John Paul II. My dear friend, being one of those in the audience who contacted me after the event, had a further difficulty though. “How can we evangelize without exuding holiness?” ”You can’t,” came my curt reply, “at least not in the truest sense.”
You can give people information. You can clarify misconceptions. You can be helpful, joyful and full of life, but at the end of the day, if others do not catch a glimpse of the holy when in your presence, then the task of evangelization is left unfinished. Remember our God is calling us to be a holy people, nothing less. And if they do not see an example of that in you and I, then it is not a matter of continuing the search to find it in others, it is simply a matter of a search not begun.
A Valuable Point
And here is a valuable point. Contrary to popular belief and poetic sentiment, the Faith is not addictive; only holiness is. The trimmings, the feast days, the numerous and beautiful pious practices have never and will never convince someone to walk the Via Dolorosa. Rather it is only an encounter with the Holy One, either mediated through creation such as Moses discovered in the burning bush when he needed to remove his sandals, or found within a friend.
But let’s be clear, you and I are neither the source of that holiness nor are we great containers of it. To varying degrees and in fluctuating ways, we can only smell of where we have been. And the longer we have been in the presence of the Holy One; the more intensely we have entered into that space, the greater will be our effect on others.
On the Other Hand…
It is true that not everyone who seems holy actually is, but it does not change the fact that the cultures and people of our time need lived examples of God’s Presence. They need to see it; they need notice it. And while some might run from your example after hearing lectures such as the above, know that you are evangelizing, and THAT is something we are all called to do.
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.
Check out Patrick and his ministry – Evango – at https://evango.net/