Leviticus 19. 1-2,11-18; Psalm 18; Matthew 25.31-46
Holiness is the defining characteristic of God. Essentially the word suggests otherness, difference. Human beings can be, to varying degrees, strong, prescient, even benevolent. But only God can be holy.
Thus the vocation (call) to the people of God, ‘Be holy, for I, the lord your God, am holy’, is less demand than promise. It is as if a generous man encounters an urchin and declares, ‘You must have a new coat’—and then sets out to provide for the need he has identified. When God calls us to holiness, he calls us to become God-like, and he sets out to endue us with his own character. The Torah (the Hebrew word means ‘teaching’ or instruction) is God’s way of informing his people of the way they are to live, the way of God’s own life.
In the end, though, instruction isn’t adequate. God teaches us how to become Godlike by himself becoming human. In Jesus, he lives human life, with all of life’s complexities and paradoxes, and dies human death, with all of death’s terror and pain. He lives life authentically and fearlessly and dares the Enemies of life to do their best to destroy him. When their efforts fail—for ‘death could not hold him’ [Acts 2.24]—he returns to heaven, and from there he bestows on us his Holy Spirit, who fills us and endows us with his own holiness.