My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Our first reading from the Book of Leviticus offers us a similar desire, but this time from the other side of this parent-child relationship. This time it is our Heavenly Father who says: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Can we, weak and fragile humans, ascend to the holiness which the mysterious powers of heaven proclaimed in the great vision of the Prophet Isaiah as they sang in the presence of the Almighty: “Holy, holy, holy”? Even if it may look easier to reach the summit of the Mount Everest than to reach the holiness of our God we are assured in faith that “God, infinitely perfect and blessed, - as we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church – in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man.” Our Blessed Lord, who has drawn to us as close as possible by becoming one of us, encourages us again when he says: “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect.”
I hope you have noticed that those two sentences: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” and “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect” are placed in the context of a particular expression of love: FORGIVNESS. “You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart” we heard in the First Reading. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” were the words of Jesus Christ from the Gospel for this Sunday.
How do you find that “Your Father in heaven causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike”? Do you admire and desire to copy it by giving the warmth of your heart to those who hurt you? Do you admire and desire to copy it by giving your tears of pain caused by others as your blessing for them rather than a call demanding a revenge?
My Dear Friends! During the horrible domestic war in Spain at the beginning of the twenties century, men and women inspired by secular revolutionary movement hunted down and slaughtered thousands of priests, brothers and nuns only because those religious were people of God. Those revolutionaries were driven by a conviction that to build a new Spain they had to eradicate people who looked up to God for a direction and guidance. Some could ask where God was during that time of terror…. God was reaching to his children on both sides. There is a testimony regarding a revolutionary who while dying asked for a priest to hear his confession. A priest came. He heard his confession. He gave him an absolution. He gave him Holy Communion, anointed him and quietly left. After the priest left the dying man started shouting at the top of his voice. “He has forgiven me! He has forgiven me!” Why was he so moved by the absolution? Well, some time earlier the revolutionary was searching for the priest to kill him. He came to the parish house. The priest was away but his parents and some friends were there. They were all killed in an act of rage. However the grace of repentance which eventually reached the murderer was moistened by the forgiveness received from the victim.
I don’t know if that priest as a little boy said: “One day I will be like my heavenly Father” but I know that he was. He was like his forgiving Heavenly Father because his Heavenly Father was there, right in the midst of terror reaching to his children on both sides. Some to draw to repentance. Some to draw to forgiveness. It is not simply a war story. It is our story too.