December 11, 2005

The Other Definition of Holy

Somewhere in my early religious ed I recall the word "holy" meaning "set apart". It's only of late that I've learned it also means the slightly different (rimshot!) connotation of "other" or "different". And occasionally I catch glimpse of just how other other can be.

I think I was ten or eleven days into my career when I put up a sign in my cubical that said, "Only 10,282 days till retirement!". That sentiment is pretty much antithetical to Christ's view of his mission in saving souls. Jesus wasn't clicking off days until he could get back to his "real life" with the Father. St. Alphonsus Liguori writes:
The love of Jesus Christ for human beings was so great that it made him long for the hour of his death so that he might show the tenderness of his love for them. During his life, he said, "There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!" (Lk 12:40).
St. Térèse of Lisieux wrote that she would "spend Heaven doing good upon the earth". Very other. (I was thinking more along the lines of heading for the beer tent.) And country crooner Patty Loveless recorded a song that illustrates another aspect of God's otherness - his willingness to constantly let us try again:
Who keeps on trusting you
When you been cheating
Spending your nights on the town
Who keeps on saying
That she still wants you
When you're through runnin' around
Who keeps on lovin' you
When you been lyin'
Sayin' things that ain't what they seem...
Well God does
But I don't
God will
But I won't
And that's the difference
Between God and me

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