Part of the Christian believer’s life is the striving toward greater holiness. Anyone person who is completely honest with oneself knows one’s own continual shortcomings. The ability to become more holy is not inherent within oneself. Holiness, therefore, must come from an external source. This source is Jesus Christ and deep holiness is the result of an encounter with and transformation by him through the indwelling Spirit.
At the conclusion of his essay on Christology, Ben Witherington III makes a few observations about Christ as the center of the New Testament. He notes in particular the life of the early Christian church. He writes,
What we are dealing with here is a group of people who had profound religious experiences that they interpreted as encounters with the living Lord—that is, with Jesus the Christ. . . . [I]t was their religious experiences with Christ they had in common. And it was their communities of worship and fellowship, which came into being because of those experiences, that provided the matrix for reflection about the meaning of the Christ event. (Ben Witherington, “Jesus as the Alpha and Omega of New Testament Thought,” in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker [Grand Rapids: William B. Eeerdmans, 2005], 44-45)
For the Johannine community, with which one of the most profound of New Testament documents is associated, this reflection is seen clearly in their gospel, the Gospel of John. On the community’s experiences, Paul N. Anderson has noted,
What has been mistaken as an appeal to ‘historical’ authority in the Johannine tradition (esp. 1 John 1:1-3) is actually the valuing of a tradition assumedly built upon transforming encounters with Jesus, with which the post-resurrection life of the community is believed to be continuous. . . . This means that if John’s christology has its origins in transforming encounters with Jesus (Jn. 6:20), which lead into future encounters with the eternal Christ (cf. Bultmann, p. 70f., esp. notes 2 and 3, re. Browning and Kierkegaard), the epistemological origin and structure of this content is personal and relational. (Paul N. Anderson, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Its Unity and Disunity in the Light of John 6, 3rd printing [Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010], 150)
In a person of the recent past, I find the outcome of such relationship with and transformation by Jesus Christ to be found in Pier Giorgio Frassati. Pier lived a brief 24-year life in the early twentieth century. He was a youth of prayer, faith, and love. These qualities compelled him to the slums of Italy where he ministered among the poor and unfortunate, from whom he possibly contracted the polio virus that took his life. In the end,
When news of Pier Giorgio’s death on July 4, 1925 reached the neighborhood and city, the Frassati parents, who had no idea about the generous self-donation of their young son, were astonished by the sight of thousands of people crowded outside their mansion on the day of their son’s funeral Mass and burial. The poor, the lonely, and those who had been touched by Pier Giorgio’s love and faithful example had come to pay homage to this luminous model of Christian living. (Lay Dominicans, “Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati,” Fraternaties of St. Dominic, http://www.3op.org/frassati.php [accessed October 7, 2010]).
If I try compare my achievements to the sort of faith-works dynamic that Pier had, I fall flat upon my face. Yet, encouragement came from Saturday morning’s homily that I heard: things like praying and gathering together in community count. In these things, we find Jesus transforms us ever so subtly that months and years later we know we closer to the image of the Son and more holy than we once were.
I believe the hallmark of “Holiness” is love. It’s the humility to accept that we are loved and need God’s love. It’s then the practice to love both ourselves and others through the empowering of the Holy Spirit….
Well said. Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. Thanks for sharing!
Craig: You are exactly right. To go further, I believe this kind of love, the acceptance of it, and the living it out requires encounters with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to transform us into his image.
Pranaganesh: Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it.
I liked what you said about encounters with all three members of the Trinity.
I had a personal inner healing encounter this morning during my devotion on Phillipians 4:4-9. I had a vision of the Holy Spirit going deep down into my soul and pulling a plug out of an area where I had bottled up pain. When the plug came out I uttered such a painful groan, and yet could truly feel God’s presence / love filling me.
That is wonderful to hear. The pain with the plugs are but just a little compared to the fullness of freedom that we live in afterward. It also makes rejoicing a much easier thing to do continually.
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