To be holy, "set apart for God," doesn't mean to be unworldly and detached from life. God calls all of us to be holy, no matter what our station in life is. God calls the priest to be holy, and God also calls to holiness the barber who cuts the priest's hair, the migrant worker who picks the grapes for the priest's table, the priest's parishioner who is disabled and on Food Stamps, and the worker who assembles the priest's car in a factory.
Being holy is uniquely lived out by each of us, in our own families, neighborhoods, and church communities, our own part of this world. What sets us apart for God is that we set our priorities and make choices with unified hearts which are centered in God and live for God alone. A person with a unified heart is always the same authentic person, no matter what he or she is choosing, doing or saying, believing or practicing, no matter what "hat" is on his or her head.
We get uneasy when we're asked to consider that we may be holy because we know that we don't have unified hearts, centered in God. We have very fractured hearts, sometimes influenced by warring thoughts or emotions, not always able to make good choices or set the right priorities. On my retreat, we talked about the ways that people lead fractured lives in our society today
One man who works with refugees said "Some of the refugees' hearts are fractured by grief. They had to come here because otherwise they would be killed in their own countries, and they tell me 'I didn't want to be here - but it's been determined I can't go home.' We have to put some on suicide watches because they can't cope.'"
A woman said "I see people fractured by compartmentalization. They say 'I want my kids to receive the Sacraments' but then they don't go as families to Mass."
We're fractured by extreme loss, extreme busyness, extreme stress, extreme excess. How many families rush around day after day with dinner from a drive-in in the back seat of their cars?
But disillusionment with others' fractured hearts shouldn't keep us from focusing on our own lives and our daily joys and challenges. For slowly replacing our fractured hearts with whole hearts so we become holy people, full of peace and joy, is God's work in us, with us, and through us during our entire lifetimes.
When we choose to accept the gift of faith in God, when we accept the gift of belonging to the Body of Christ, a gift given to us in the waters of Baptism, and when we invite God into our lives, God changes us. In Ezekiel 36: 25-27, God says to us "I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my statutes within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees."
If we have allowed God to remove our stony hearts and give us natural hearts, we have unified hearts - we are always the same authentic, loving, merciful, honest, pure person, no matter where we are and what we're doing and what we're believing. No matter what "hat" we're wearing, we are alive in Christ. We've been purified by God: we have "put off" an unthinking, unfeeling acceptance of society's idols and values, and we have "put on" the always- wise, merciful mind and heart of Christ. And God puts a new spirit, the Holy Spirit, within us, reminding us of everything that Christ has taught us.
So we must guard our newly natural hearts of flesh from being fractured and turned back to stone every minute. Every day we can prayerfully ask ourselves "What God do I REALLY worship? What gives my life meaning? What values do I believe in? What beliefs and values am I teaching my children, not by what I say, but by what I do? What kind of person does my spouse know? What kind of person do my friends know? What kind of person does my Boss or my co-workers or our clients know? Would any of these people recognize me if they saw me with a different 'hat' on?"
If we live every day attuned to what God is asking of us, if we remember that we are children of God and so is everyone else in this world, if we strive to be patient and forgiving with others as God is patient and forgiving with us, if we speak and act the Truth, we are well on our way to having a unified heart. We are well on our way to being holy. We are setting ourselves apart from everything that would separate us from the God Whom we love above all others. We are guarding our hearts so only Good will flow from them!