As we travel the Pathway to the Passion, we are confronted by a call to live holy lives. Holiness, for the people of God, means to be set apart of God’s use. In our readings for today, God says through Moses that we are to be holy as He is holy. As we will see, holiness is not only a position (to be set apart), but identification (who we are) and holiness is also to be in operation (the way we live and love). Read on…
Read Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 – Can We Really Be Holy as God is Holy?
Leviticus 19 is in the middle of what has been called, “The Holiness Code.” In these chapters, God lays out His laws designed to order the lives of His people. In verses one and two, God instructs Moses to summon the entire assembly of Israel. God wants everyone to know His expectation. “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” God’s holiness is based on His identity as God. The only way for fallen humankind to be holy was for them to be in a covenant relationship with their holy God. To apprehend this, we must rewind to the creation of man.
When Adam and Eve were created, they were fashioned after the “image and likeness of God.” To understand what “image and likeness” means, we need look no further than Genesis 5:3. Adam had a son named Seth, in his “image and likeness.” To be in someone’s image and likeness means sonship. At the end of the genealogy in Luke 3:38, we learn that Adam was indeed God’s created son. So, before the fall, Adam shared in God’s identity as His created son. By identification with God, he was living in a state of holiness and sinlessness. However, after the fall, that divine sonship was severed.
God’s chosen means to restore mankind to Himself was through the instrument of covenants. You see, covenants create family. Marriage is a covenant which binds two individuals from separate families together into one family. By instituting covenants with mankind (through Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, David and Jesus), God desired to identify with humankind once again. So, for mankind to be holy, he must enter into a covenant relationship with God and keep the “Word” or the expectations of the covenant. As Moses lays down the law, as it were, here in Leviticus 19, we see what it will take for us to be holy as God is holy. We discover what it will take for us to give image and to be in the likeness of God.
Notice that our passage for today speaks about treatment of others. Then, it culminates in, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus would quote this passage as part of the “Great Commandment,” along with loving God with all that we are. So, God is concerned that His people are positioned in the covenant with Him – identifying as His family. And, He is concerned that His covenant family treats others with love. When His children love others, then they bear an unmistakable family resemblance to their heavenly Father – for God IS love. If His children are to be holy as He is holy, they will love as He does. This transcends believing the right things, or ritual observance, and ties holiness to the way we treat others.
Read Matthew 25:31-46 – The Family Resemblance is Unmistakable
For almost two thousand years the Church has proclaimed the mystery of the faith by saying, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!” In our Gospel reading, the Lord Jesus comes again, “in His glory” (See Daniel 7:13-14). Notice the immediate difference with our reading from Leviticus 19. The audience for Moses’ assembly is the nation of Israel. In Jesus’ teaching here, the audience for the Son of Man will be all of the nations of the earth. Jesus is speaking of the culmination of the age.
What is the Son of Man doing? He is separating the sheep and goats. Essentially, those who are in the covenant relationship with God in Christ (the sheep) are put on the right. Those who are not in the covenant relationship with God in Christ (the goats) are put on the left. To those on the right, The King (The Son of Man who is given dominion over the Kingdom) will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To those on the left, the King will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” What we see here is God’s righteous judgment, for covenants have blessings for faithfulness and curses for unfaithfulness.
Allow me to interject that the covenant offered to us is the New Covenant is “in Christ.” You see, none of us could keep the Old Covenant Law. “There is none righteous, not even one.” So, the only way we can be restored to sonship and holiness is to be united to Christ. In so doing, we become “sons of God in the Son of God.” The only way we bear the image and likeness of God is to conform to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). When we are united to Jesus, we are crucified with Him. We no longer live, but rather, it is Christ who lives through us (Galatians 2:20). 1 John 4:12 states, “…if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
How does the Son of Man determine who is in the covenant and who is not? Remember, those in God’s covenant family bear the image and likeness of the Father. God the Father is love. Therefore, those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, nursed the sick, visited the imprisoned resemble the Father. The faithful ones ask, “when did we do all of this?” The King reveals than when His family members did this to to even the least of the others, it was if they were doing it for Him. The question of the faithful reveals that they were not loving others for personal gain. They didn’t even realize what they were doing. They loved others because that’s what God’s family looks like in action. The family resemblance is unmistakable. They revealed their identity by their acts of love toward others!
The unfaithful ones bore no resemblance to the Father. All that the faithful had done, they had left undone. The King said, inversely, what you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. With that, they were “cut off” from God and sent to their eternal punishment. While the righteous were ushered into eternal life.
Allow me to interject that the covenant offered to us is the New Covenant is “in Christ.” You see, none of us could keep the Old Covenant Law. “There is none righteous, not even one.” So, the only way we can be restored to sonship and holiness is to be united to Christ. In so doing, we become “sons of God in the Son of God.” The only way we bear the image and likeness of God is to conform to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). When we are united to Jesus, we are crucified with Him. Therefore, we no longer live, but rather it is Christ who lives through us (Galatians 2:20). 1 John 4:12 states, “…if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
As we journey to Jerusalem during these days, as we pray and fast, may we also give alms, sharing our resources and our love with those in need. Not to gain favor, but to extend the loving arms of the Father to those who desperately need His embrace. May Jesus’ statement ring in our ears, “What you did to the least of these…it is as if you did it unto me.” And, may Ignatius’ prayer become our own, “Lord, when did you make yourself present to us this day, and when were we called to be your Presence?” Finally, I pray that when people see us, they say, “You know, they look just like their Father.”