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God would not ask us to be holy if, indeed, it were impossible to do so

       When I was 12, my dad bought me a bow and arrow set, complete with a target. This was the real deal: pointed metal tips and cool feathering on the end of the arrow. So I set up the target against one of mom’s hedges out back, stepped off a few paces and proceeded to play William Tell.

       Hideous! I rarely hit the target, not to mention the bull’s eye. Arrows veered off in odd trajectories. An arrow even ricocheted off the house. Just drawing back the bow was a challenge.

       Being holy is a lot like that bow and arrow set. The object of being holy is to hit the bull’s eye, which is God.

       Sin, on the other hand, is simply missing the target. When we sin, what we are doing is shooting arrows at all those odd trajectories. The bull’s eye, God, is the least of our concerns.

       The reason for those odd trajectories is that we are the ones drawing back the bow, we’reshooting the arrows. Holiness, however, is about allowing God to draw back the bow; allowing God to be the archer. You and I? We’re the arrows.

       When I was 12 and trying to shoot those arrows into the bull’s eye, I was out there in the backyard alone. I was trying to learn the skill by myself.

       God doesn’t expect us to be holy, to hit the bull’s eye, by ourselves. God gives us help and that help is through the Holy Spirit. He gives us help in the Scriptures. God gives us help in being holy through the Church and her sacraments. God gives us help in community.

       We are a community, and God wants our community to be holy. Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, formed a community around him: those twelve guys we call apostles. And we call that community Church. Within this Church Jesus also gives us his body and blood to be consumed. He does so in order for us to be in him, and he in us. We are helped to be made holy by eating God; to become what we eat.

       Scriptures mention being holy in several passages, both in the Old and New Testaments. “To me, therefore, you shall be holy.” (Lev 20:26) “This is the will of God, your holiness.” (1 Thess 4:3) “Be holy yourselves.” (1 Peter 1:15)

       God would not ask us to be holy if it were impossible for us to do so. Being holy does not mean not making mistakes. Being holy means loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

       And the degree to which we do that? That is the degree to which we are holy. Throughout the ages the Church has recognized men and women who loved God and neighbor to a very high degree. We call those men and women saints.

       To this day I don’t know why my dad bought me that bow and arrow set. But I do know why God calls you and me to be holy. God is like any other father: He loves us and wants us to be with him. Totally holy.

       God wants us to be an arrow on his bow. It’s not a challenge for him to draw back the bow. The hardest part about being holy is trust. Trusting God to shoot us where he thinks it is necessary for the bull’s eye to be.

       We’ve just begun Lent. What better way to surrender to God this sacred season than to allow him to take us into his hands, and allow him to shoot us exactly where he wants us to be.


       Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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