A message from
Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
“Be Holy, Because God is Holy”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
We read in the First Letter of St. Peter: “Gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as He Who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written: ‘Be holy because I am holy'” (1: 13-16).
In the Liturgy, when the priest elevates the consecrated gifts saying: “Holy gifts for the holy”, we answer: “One is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ for the glory of God the Father. Amen”. We are called to holiness, because we are children of God Who is holy, but we recognize at the same time that we are sinners. In the Creed we proclaim our belief in “One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”. The Church is holy because she is the Body of Christ who is holy. But we, as members of the Church, we remain sinners who need to repent. St. Ephrem defined the members of the Church as “the assembly of sinners who walk through repentance to holiness”.
The late bishop Fulton Sheen wrote: “I once gave a retreat in a maximum security prison, where there were 1,979 inmates. All of them thought, of course, that I had on a white hat and they had on black hats—that I was good and they were bad. How could I begin? Well, I began by saying: Gentleman, I want you to know that there is one great difference between you and me. You got caught. I didn’t. In other words, we are all sinners”. And commenting on the following verse of one of the psalms: “I thirst for the living God, when will I appear before Him?”, he writes: “We have a thirst for holiness. We want to be saints. We want to be happy, to be at peace on the inside, to be one with the Father. What is sanctity? Sanctity is Christ living in me so that His mind possesses my mind and I am governed by His truth. That’s sanctity. He is in my body, so that my body becomes a tabernacle. Sanctity is not only Christ in me, it’s making Christ known to others. It’s being loveable. It’s making Christ loveable. When others see us, they see Christ”.
Holiness is a long journey in which we have to struggle so that we “do not act in compliance with the desires of our former ignorance.” Great Lent is a particular time for repentance from our sinful conduct and for deepening our union with Christ so that He Who is holy may live in us. “I am the vine,” Jesus said, “you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
I wish you a holy and fruitful Lent. “The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all”.
Eparch of Newton