Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
The language of today's first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel may strike us as strange. God speaks of proving His holiness. For most of us, we wonder why this is necessary.
However, if we look at the true meaning of holiness as it is used in the Hebrew Scriptures, we will find that it differs slightly from our own considerations. To be holy, in the Hebrew Scriptures, means to be "other than." Another way to express it is to say that holiness sets someone apart from the rest.
To be sure, we think of modern day saints, modern holy people, as different. However, what makes them different? What makes God different? First of all, let us remember that the Israelites are not all that far removed from the gods and goddesses of their neighbors. When they claim that God is holy, they are stating that God is not like the other gods and goddesses. The difference lies in God's loving and steadfast kindness, God's compassion and love for all, even for the sinner. What makes God different is the fact that God forgives. This was not the case with the gods and goddesses of the neighboring tribes and clans. Their gods were avenging and capricious. Forgiveness was, in the eyes of many foreigners, a sign of weakness. Gods and goddesses were not meant to be weak.
The Israelites came to see God's strength in terms of God's willingness to forgive rather than to destroy, to gather up the dispersed and restore them to their rightful place in God's realm. Indeed, God's holiness is proven by God's mercy.