…you don’t need a collar… in order to be Holy, what you do need to do is pray.
Consecrate them in the truth, your word is truth. In our gospel today, we see Jesus praying. His eyes raised towards heaven. And this is what he asked us to do when he ascended into heaven to spend these days before the coming of the Holy Spirit in prayer. To raise our eyes towards heaven. To our almighty father and to seek his wisdom and his love. Many people think that to pray, you must somehow be especially Holy.
And we touched on that in the gospel, with that word consecrate, what does it mean to be consecrated in the truth of the Lord? Well, it’s taken to mean to be Holy. And this piece of gospel, this prayer is often called the priestly prayer Jesus priestly prayer. He is praying for his apostles, the forerunners of priests that we have today. And he’s praying that they are consecrated to the truth of God. And before the 1960s and 1970s, there was a real sense that in order to be Holy, the only path to holiness was through the consecrated life being a priest, a deacon, a bishop, or being a member of a religious order.
That was the only way that you could lead a Holy life. And after the 1960s, Vatican two, there was a sense that this was missing out on the everyday holiness that exists in in people that we meet all of the time. And to say that the only way that you can be Holy or the only way to live a consecrated life is to be ordained or to be a member of a religious order is to rather miss the point of the holiness that exists in all of us.
One of the things that I always say and I’m absolutely convinced of, is that God exists in every single one of us as a spark in our hearts. And that spark, that flame can be pushed down, it can be dampened and it can be hidden, but it never really goes away. But what we can do is we can blow gently on that flame and we can give it a little bit of kindling, we can give it a little bit of wood, and with a little bit of work, that flame will grow.
That spark will turn into a flame, the flame will turn into a fire. And before we know it, God will be burning brightly within us so brightly the fact that it shines out into the world around us.
Now to me. That’s what being Holy is about. Being Holy is about understanding that that spark of God within us takes time to look after. That it requires fuel. That it needs a little bit of encouragement every now and again, that it needs protecting from too much wind or too much thrown on it at once.
So we have to care for that spark, and if we do, it will grow. And this is why I think we have that connection between ordained ministry and the religious life and being Holy because the very structure of being ordained, the very structure of living a religious life, is daily care and maintenance of that holiness that already exists within. Through daily prayer, through daily mass, through learning to live with people that you don’t necessarily get on with in a community.
Through structured study of scripture. Through all of those things that these lives that I and many others lead force on, and that’s a gift, that’s a gift, because I don’t have to think very much about maintaining my spark because I have to do it as part of my everyday life. I think it’s often harder for those who don’t live that rigorous life of prayer and of mass because you have to figure out how to maintain that spark. How do you help it grow?
And it’s been particularly tough over the last 12 months because we’ve not been able to do those things that will help with that, we’ve not been able to meet and study scripture together. We’ve not been able to meet and pray together in house groups. I have not been able to come and visit you in our homes to talk about the things that will help you give more fuel to that spark. But that time is coming to an end, that time of not being able to share those things together is coming to an end.
And I have to say, I am both excited by that and I’m a little bit worried about that. And I’m worried about it, because when you open that door to that spark in your heart and you give it a bit of fuel, it can cause all sorts of questions in your life. And it can cause all sorts of pain as you face difficulties and face things in your life that are hard.
But the love, the love that comes behind it is phenomenal. And in facing those facing those dark things in your life, through that action of prayer, through that action of reading scripture, you will come closer to that love and you will feel that warmth in your heart as that fire grows. Wesley put it put it best. He said, I feel a strange warming in my heart. Fortunately, he wasn’t having a heart attack. He was beginning to understand the warmth of God’s love within him.
And so this week, a daily mass, I’ve been encouraging you to think about what your gifts from God may be, and I mentioned it last Sunday, Saint Paul told us this week that some are teachers, some are prophets… everybody has a different gift, and so my plea to you is to recognise that you have that spark of God within, that Jesus is praying for you to be more Holy. And to be more holy All you have to do is feed that spark.
And in feeding that spark and in that prayer, discern what it is God wants you to do with your life. It doesn’t matter how young you are, it doesn’t matter how old you are. God has a job in front of you. And so this week, in this time between Ascension and Pentecost, turn your eyes to God our Almighty Father, recognise that spark inside you. Discern what it is that God wants you to do. And it could be anything.
It could be marriage. It could be becoming a tertiary member or an associate member of a religious order. It could be volunteering at the food bank. It could be committing to pray for somebody who doesn’t know Jesus yet to pray for them every day that they may come to faith. It could be committing to reading scripture every single day. It could be to understanding that it is helping others to pray. To give someone a ring who is on your heart and say, can I pray with you?
So you don’t need a collar. You don’t need to be consecrated in a religious order in order to be Holy, what you do need to do is pray.