For those who keep the holy precepts hallowed shall be found holy, and those learned in them will have ready a response. Desire therefore my words; long for them and you shall be instructed.
I am struck by the triple appearance of a word in the verse above: holy, hallowed, and holy. I sometimes invite Veterans in the substance abuse rehab program to consider the sacred. I ask them three questions: What is holy to the person in the military? What is holy to the Veteran? What is holy to one in recovery? Sometimes, depending on how well the discussion flows, I ask, "What effect does reverence have on your sense of humor? Can we cultivate a sense of humor that amuses without offense?"
Because few of the Veterans ever speak of things like holiness, I provide a thesaurus of words to make the subject more accessible. In alphabetic order:
Allegiance, Ardor, Awe, Belief, Devotion, Devout, Docility, Duty, Enthusiasm, Faith, Fealty, Fear of the Lord, Fervor, Fidelity, Godliness, Grace, Holiness, Loyalty, Obedience, Passion, Piety, Religion, Reverence, Sacred, Sacrifice, Sanctity, Veneration, Zeal.
When all else fails I ask about their feeling for the American flag. When one Veteran angrily declared, "Nothing is holy!" I asked him about the American flag. He conceded my point.
"Come children, listen to me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord." Psalm 34:11
Reverence is not instinctive; it does not come naturally to us. We have to learn it from others. But we don't learn it from what they say. If their actions and attitudes don't correspond to their words about piety, we learn hypocrisy. Likewise, if our teachers do not respect their disciples, if they assume a pious posture toward God but an unworthy superiority over their inferiors, their sanctity is sterile. Godliness is not taught; it is caught from those who have it. It comes with grateful self-respect.
Reverence, or "Fear of the Lord," is a habit which, practiced intensely over many years, becomes strong and deep, and feels natural. Those learned in this way of life, will have a ready response to many situations. When you sneeze, I say, "God bless you!" When we sit down to eat, we say grace. We might be astonished that others don't keep these customs; they might be equally astonished that we do.
An old country gentleman, sitting down to eat in a mid-city diner, stopped to pray. A young stranger asked him, "Hey, old man, does everybody pray like that where you come from?" "No, son," he said, "the pigs don't."
This passage from the Book of Wisdom recalls our Jewish forebears' great respect for the Word of God. When the divinely appointed king disappeared and Solomon's temple, built to outlast the pyramids, was razed, the word of God endured. They carried it with them into exile and by its songs, recitations, and sermons they knew that God had not abandoned his people.
When Jesus was raised up his disciples knew the Word had become flesh and lived among us. As Saint John said, "The Word is God!"
in an apostolic letter, Pope Francis recently invited Catholic throughout the world to cultivate a deeper reverence for God's word. Recalling that Jesus "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures," he has declared the third Sunday of Ordinary Time, (next January 26,) The Sunday of the Word of God. He recalls Saint Jerome's teaching, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."
We should love the Word of God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength -- and that is called, "reverence."
As we begin each day with readings and prayers from scripture, we shall be found holy, and will have ready a response to each day's challenges.