Wholly Sanctified

Paul by Sr. Elaine Penrice, fsp (c)

St. Paul reminds us that God “anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1: 22). Paul by Sr. Elaine Penrice, fsp (c)

“May the God of peace sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1. Thes. 5:23).

To this I say “Amen!” The prayers of St. Paul always pick me up on those Lenten days that I find “perfection” far from my reach. Paul who “fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7) admitted that his weaknesses were his strength “because God’s power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Two early Christian saints also found St. Paul to be a remedy for failing resolutions, or at least the feeling that we haven’t really gone very far on our path to holiness. St. Peter wrote: “Our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you” (2 Peter 3:14). (Paul is also the saint to pray to for patience!).

Another saint, Polycarp, advised his flock, “When Paul was absent, he wrote you letters, and if you study them carefully, you will be able to be built up into the faith that has been given to you….” Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna to the Philippians 3:2-3 (60-159 A.D.)

Paul still encourages after all these years. Each time we prayerfully read his letters we find them “alive and active” (Heb. 4:12); activating our holiness and alive with the graces we require. At the beginning of the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul invites us to “Be imitators of God” (5:1). Through his letter to the Corinthians he tells us we are holy and he addresses us as such: “To the holy ones…called to be holy” (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul knew that we are already created in God’s image and likeness (Gn. 26-27).  He also knew that we fall short of being the image of God (Rm. 3:23).

We fall short but aren’t we called to “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:8)? Fr. Norm Langenbrunner explains:

“The Greek word Matthew uses is teleios, often translated as perfect. Paul uses the same term in First Corinthians where it is translated as ‘mature’(2:6) and ‘complete’(13:10). Mature implies ‘full growth.’ Is this what Jesus is implying? The Hebrew word for teleios is ta’am ‘to be complete, be duplicated, to be a twin.’  Jesus is urging us to be a spitting image of the Father. God’s completeness far surpasses a human’s. In the context of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is saying ‘Grow up! Go for it! Be all you can be!’ We’ll never be as perfect as God but we can be complete.” [1]

Jesus Sister Disciples of the Divine Master

In Jesus Paul saw the fulfillment of the invitation: “Be holy as I am holy.”

In Jesus Paul saw the fulfillment of the invitation: “Be holy as I am holy”  (Lev. 19:2). Paul remembered the promises God made through the prophets:  “I will pour out my spirit” (Ezek. 29:39; Zech. 12:1). All of God’s promises find their “yes,” their fulfillment, in Jesus. God is faithful, good, true, and beautiful and brings all to life; Jesus reveals God’s love and what it means to be fully human. “Yes” has always been in Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 1:18-22).  To become what God is calling us to become, we live in the manner Jesus did. When we are faithful we reflect God’s glory. To make that possible, God has established, anointed, and sealed us with the Spirit.

In Chapter 5 of his letter to the Romans, Paul describes this good news as the Spirit poured into our hearts. The nature of love is to spill over. The Spirit, according to Paul, is God within us speaking the language God understands. Our very identity is the temple of the Spirit where God dwells (Church). Benedict XVI writes:

“If Christ Himself is inside me and I inside him, the two of us are not separate individuals. This is where the doctrine of the Body of Christ begins, because we are all incorporated…in Christ Himself.” [2]

Lectio Divina (Praying with the Word of God): We can know the truth about ourselves and the truth about others in Jesus’ attitudes and way of being (cf. Caritas in veritate). “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). This is an empowerment of the Spirit. Blessed Alberione’s “Invocations to Jesus Master” contains this petition for holiness: “Jesus, Way of holiness, make me your perfect imitator. Jesus Way, render me perfect as our Father in heaven. Jesus Truth, may I be light for the world. Jesus Life grant that I may live eternally in the joy of your love.”

TRUTH. Read Eph. 4:11-13. Blessed James Alberione tells us that without Christification there is no authentic proclamation: “Your own identity with Christ is the indispensable premise for being an evangelizer” (Cf. Alberione).

WAY. Meditate:  The Vatican II document Lumen gentium confirms our call to reflect God’s holiness. Through each of us the Church makes Christ present. The same Spirit who anointed Jesus has anointed us – we have been “Christed” or christened at baptism as priest, prophet, and shepherd-king. The word “anointed” (Greek: Christos “the anointed one”) appears six times in reference to Jesus in the New Testament. In Lk. 4:21 Jesus quotes Scripture saying that he is the awaited Christ: “God has anointed me…this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In the letters of Paul the word “anointed” appears once and in reference to our anointing. “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1: 22).

LIFE. Pray: Christening, also known as Baptism, literally means “to bring to Christ.” Let us thank God for the gift of Baptism and the indwelling Spirit of God.

LIVE. Act:  We are are called to be a reflection of Jesus, the image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15) through the Spirit. This conformity to Jesus is a response of love to the love of the Father: “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Rom. 8:5).

Prayer: Jesus Master, we thank you for having made yourself our model. You left us examples of the highest perfection. You invite us to follow you on earth and in heaven. We contemplate you during your earthly life. We place ourselves in your school. Draw us to you. Fill all our powers with yourself. Spill your love into us. Live in us so that we may overflow with you and radiate you. (cf. Blessed James Alberione, Prayers of the Pauline Family).


[1] Fr. Norm’s Notebook

[2] Benedict XVI

Copyright 2015 Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp.

St. Paul, by Sr. Elaine Penrice, fsp, copyright Daughters of St. Paul.
Jesus Divine Master, by a Pious Disciple of the Divine Master, copyright Pious Disciples of the Divine Master.


About Author

A Daughter of St. Paul for 40 years Sr. Margaret continues to pursue new ways to proclaim the Gospel: sharing the Pauline Charism with the laity, writing books (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross; Prayers for the New Evangelization), & through direct evangelization. She is available for workshops on the Vocation & Mission of the Laity, Media Literacy, and The New Evangelization. mkerry@paulinemedia.com

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