...to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
The New Testament uses the word Christian only three times. Perhaps the followers of the way avoided the word because it had been coined by strangers as a word of contempt. The authors of the gospels and letters preferred disciples, friends and saints. In Saint Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians he describes his recent converts as sanctified and "called to be holy."
This is not a static expression like blessed chalices, rosaries and churches. The holy ones is a dynamic description, fluid with movement and endless potential. The Church readily adopted the language of Leviticus, the holiness code of the Torah. The Lord had said through Moses, "You shall be holy as I am holy."
Saint Paul was delighted and amazed with the holiness he found in his Corinthian friends. There is irony here because Corinthians were famous for their sexual liberties. A port city with a daily influx of sailors is rife with red light districts. The Holy Ones of this ancient congregation were markedly different from their fellow citizens.
In today's gospel, Jesus gives another clue about the life of the holy ones. They are awake and alert, ready to do good and avoid evil. They are ready at every hour to greet the master of the house.
It doesn't take much imagination to know what erodes our readiness. Alcohol, recreational drugs, sexual liberty, obsessions, anxieties, overwork, etc.
However, maintaining one's alertness is not so easy. After a few hours of high alertness even the well-prepared are apt to take a break. Ever since 9/11 we have tried to maintain a constant alert against terrorism. We fuel this alertness with imaginative preparations about where and when the enemy might strike -- only to find that he has struck again where and when we were not prepared!
Our Lord's coming is infinitely more delightful. He comes in gifted moments as when we make generous sacrifices for our loved ones. As gratifying, too, are those little victories when we pass up the opportunity to do evil. We should celebrate these received graces with gratitude: "Thank you, God, that at least on this occasion I chose to do the right thing!"
More challenging are the corners which might be cut: the time saved that should not have been saved; the opportunity missed because "I'll make up for it tomorrow."
The faithful use the daily examen to study the hours of each day. What did the Holy Spirit want me to do, and did I do it. Was the Holy Spirit prompting me to speak when I kept silent, or -- more likely -- urging me to silence when I spoke out?
I met a woman on the airplane once who told me she was studying motivation. "Wow!" I said. "That's incredibly important! How do we maintain our motivation?" She hadn't a clue. She was studying marketing or something, how to get people to use their computers to accomplish chores. She had not considered the spiritual dimensions of motivation.
If it depended upon us, we would be in deep trouble. Fortunately, our God is with us, ever drawing us with love most delightful and with threats most dire to,
“Stay awake!For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.