The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Reflection Tuesday afternoon I watched as University of Arizona researcher Dante Lauretta’s audacious dream born in 2011 came true. Nine years, 1.16 billion dollars and the devoted collaboration of thousands of individuals kissed the asteroid Bennu with the Osiris Rex spacecraft 200 million miles away from Tucson, Arizona precisely on a spot the size of a couple of parking spaces. When the spacecraft touched down for a mere few moments and grabbed a sample of what might be the original grit of creation, the ground crews eyes teared above their masked mouths as they pumped their arms and shouted celebration with a singular voice. “We did it. We did it!” Sometimes this is exactly what we humans need to be set on fire and inspired to be more that we ever imagined; a dream, a big, audacious, adventurous, impossible dream.
Which makes me wonder if this is what God has in mind when compelling Moses to deliver an even more audacious call to all of humanity, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Please pause and chew on these words, swallow them, let them have their way with you. “You shall be holy.” There is no equivocation, You SHALL be holy. You MUST be holy. Now let me be clear, the injunction to holiness is not limited to a few special people called to holy orders or set aside for religious life. The you of “you shall be holy” refers to “all the congregation of Israel.” This second person point of view belongs to all the people being addressed, whoever hears these words. Today, this is you. YOU shall be holy. You MUST be holy.
We cannot escape it. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We are meant to be a holy people, people whose lives individually and collectively are conformed to God’s audacious call to to be holy.
You may well argue, does not God make it patently clear that God is God and we are not? Surely our righteous ancestor Job, with whom neither the devil nor God could find fault, was quaking on his ash heap as God bellows out of the whirlwind to Job’s sick and suffering soul.
7 ‘Gird up your loins like a man;
I will question you, and you declare to me.
8 Will you even put me in the wrong?
Will you condemn me that you may be justified?
9 Have you an arm like God,
and can you thunder with a voice like his?
‘Can you draw out Leviathan with a fish-hook,
or press down its tongue with a cord?” (Job 40.7-9, 41.1)
Hearing that would be daunting but I say, acknowledging the distance between God and us is rather like reckoning the 200 million miles between the University of Arizona space lab and the asteroid Bennu. By daring to seek the unreachable, unspeakable fulfillment comes near.
We are called to the audacious dream of holiness and just in case we get bogged down in details or derailed by arguments of what is just, lawful, merciful or true, our text from Leviticus graciously concludes with a succinct summary statement. “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” In other words, to be holy as God is holy we are not to hate one another, not to hold grudges, but to act with mercy and love toward one another.
We answer God’s call to live holy lives by treating the aged, the infirm and the poor with care and consideration. We speak truth and do not profit at the expense of others. We do not nurture resentment or seek retaliation. Rather, we show thoughtfulness, grant forgiveness and volunteer hospitality, even, and perhaps especially to those whom we believe occupy space 200 million miles away from us.
God compels Moses to deliver an audacious call to all of humanity, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Although the dream of holiness may seem to be 200 millions miles beyond our reach, being made in the image and likeness of God, nothing is impossible for us when we direct our hearts and minds, our actions and resources to make God’s dream come true together. If we can kiss an asteroid 200 million miles away, surely we can be kind to our neighbors.
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