As hundreds of millions of people all over the world mark Holy Week, we need to reflect deeply on the real meaning of the word holy. Many people of all religions often think that to be holy means largely to go to places of worship, take part in rites and rituals or go into long hours of meditation or prayer and reflect on the holy scriptures.
All these are good and provide spiritual nourishment for our growth in or into holiness. Often these religious practices do not translate into action, and many people remain as hypocrites, self-righteous and sanctimonious humbugs. They are often villains at home but saints outside. As Shakespeare said, the world’s a stage and we are actors. We often put up an act, wearing various masks. Others know we are acting, we know they are acting and the game of hypocrisy goes on. There is pride, hatred, anger, bitterness, a desire for revenge and unforgivenes within, but we pretend to be good and say “Peace be with you”. Our inner nature is seldom in harmony with our external behaviour. We are one thing inside, another outside.
Essentially holiness means the gradual transformation of our nature from selfishness or self-centredness to other-centredness. When we are being liberated from selfishness and transformed into holiness, we will become like the Good Samaritan, take a risk and have the courage to love our enemies, help those who hurt us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us.
In the decisions we take and the choices we make, we will not think only of our personal gain benefits or comforts, but think of the common good of all. We will be able to generously help people, even sacrifice or go the extra mile for them without expecting anything in return. When liberated from selfishness and transformed into holiness or other-centredness, we won’t have the desire to seek personal gain or glory, power, popularity or prestige. If the four major religions in our country change the focus from religiosity to transforming people to deep inner holiness or other-centredness, it will be a major step towards religious and ethnic harmony and social justice with more sharing and caring.