Recently I heard a priest talk about holiness. His definition of the word really stuck with me. He said, “Holiness isn’t about perfection; it’s about being open to God.”
Whoa. To me, that was a game-changer.
Since then, those words have rolled around in my head and in my heart. \I’ve been chewing on this idea and the more I ponder it, the more I’m filled with hope.
As a young Catholic, I lived with a mistaken view of sainthood. I looked at the statues and images of saints and assumed that they were just as two-dimensional as their likenesses. They all seemed to have very somber expressions, with eyes cast heavenward and hands held in a prayerful position. They didn’t seem to have struggles, or doubts, or even personalities. As a lively teenage girl, I can tell you that those images were less than appealing.
It wasn’t until I was being confirmed that I began to learn about some of the saints. I loved the fact that St. Lawrence, while being grilled to death for his martyrdom, actually told his executioners, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.” Now that was a guy that I could relate to! Boldly courageous and with a sense of humor! Since then, I’ve gotten to know more saints and their stories. I’ve grown to know them not as perfectly posed statues but as real people with real struggles and weaknesses that really loved God. Over time, getting to know the saints has given me a desire to become one and a glimmer of hope that it might be possible.
But, somehow, I never made the connection that the holiness of the saints wasn’t about their perfection. It was about their openness to God. So, when that priest succinctly stated in layman’s terms what holiness actually was, not only did a light bulb of understanding go on, but I also started having hope that I could be holy too. If holiness is about openness to God, I can do that. Openness I can manage. Perfection I can’t.
Because I’m a visual person and prone both to bad puns and sometimes worse metaphors, I came away from that priest’s talk with an image of Swiss cheese in my head. If I could just be “holey” like Swiss cheese, I could be holy like a saint. After all, the holes of Swiss cheese never close up and saints never close their hearts to God. Both are always open and ready to receive whatever comes at them. And maybe, like Swiss cheese, the older I get, the more “holey” I could become.
So when you’re struggling to wrap your head around how little, imperfect you can become a saint, think of Swiss cheese. Without its holes, it would just be any other cheese. But, with its holes, it’s special.
When you think of holiness, what comes to mind? Do you even strive for holiness or does it seem too unattainable? Does this idea of holiness and openness help you to view holiness as something you might just be able to attain?
Copyright 2018 Laura B Nelson