Ask anyone if they think they are holy and the answer is likely to be either “no” or “not nearly as holy as I should be.” We don’t generally think of ourselves as being holy. And yet throughout the New Testament, we are called to be holy people—we are even referred to as holy people in the liturgy. So why do we find it difficult to believe that we are capable of living a holy life?
All we have to do is think of the examples set before us by the saints. We have no difficulty in perceiving them as holy men and women. We think of them as special—and they are—but we tend to forget that they were ordinary human beings just like us, with the same weaknesses and propensities to sin. Very few of them lived a protected life isolated from the taint of the world. Instead, they faced temptations just as we do, and even failed. But they kept turning back to God and they learned from their mistakes.
The Son of God became one of us, human in every way but sin, to demonstrate to us a life of holiness and to show us that we really can be holy as he was holy. He wasn’t isolated from the sinful world. He lived among ordinary people, and even took his holiness out into the world so that God’s power could turn darkness into light, and fear into hope. He, more than anyone else, was truly in the world but not of the world.
The true path to holiness is to constantly seek to do the right thing, taking one step at a time as we allow ourselves to be reformed, reshaped, and recreated by the Holy Spirit. And for this we need to be convinced that living as Jesus did is not just a nice ideal but a very real possibility for us. And so, we shouldn’t get too discouraged. Remember that holiness is not a destination but a life-long journey. All we have to do is take small steps of obedience and trust all the way to heaven.