Recognizing Holiness – Part II

The grace of recognition is akin to the grace of knowing Jesus as the Lord



Grace from God is needed for us to recognize holiness in another. I am not speaking about recognizing the holiness of a deceased person whom the Universal Church declares a saint, but the holiness of a deceased person before the Church recognizes it. I respectfully suggest that it is akin to the grace that allows people to “cry ‘Abba!’” (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15). I also suggest that it is akin to the grace needed to recognize Jesus as the Holy One, the Lord. Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this in his book Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (2011): “‘Eternal life’ is gained through ‘recognition,’ presupposing here the Old Testament concept of recognition: recognizing creates communion; it is union of being with the one recognized. But of course the key to life is not any kind of recognition, but to ‘know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ ([John] 17:3).”

Let’s dwell on this last point with reports from the Gospels.

  • Simeon and the child Jesus: “[H]e took Him into his arms and blessed God, saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:28-32; the Nunc Dimittis)
  • John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
  • Philip (to Nathanael): “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets…” (John 1:45)
  • Nathanael: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the king of Israel.” (John 1:49)
  • Peter: “We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:69); “You are Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16; see also Luke 9:20); “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)
  • Demons: “You are the holy One of God.” (Luke 4:34, 8:38; Mark 1:24); “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (Mark 5:7; see Matt. 8:29)
  • The centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You under my roof…” (Matt. 8:8)
  • The woman who anointed Him: “[T]here was a sinful woman in the city who learned that He was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind Him at his feet weeping and began to bathe His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.” (Luke 7:37-38)
  • The women who accompanied Him and provided for Him and His Apostles: “With Him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene… Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.” (Luke 8:2-3)
  • Nicodemus: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do apart from the presence of God.” (John 3:2)
  • After Jesus had spent a couple of days with some townspeople of Samaria, the townspeople proclaimed to the woman who had introduced Jesus to them after she and Jesus had conversed by a well at noon: “Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard Him ourselves and we know that He really is the savior of the world.” (John 4:42)
  • The people who had witnessed a miracle of the loaves and fish: “[T]he people, seeing this sign that He had given said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’” (John 6:14)
  • The man born blind, speaking to the religious leaders: “Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where He comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do His will. Ever since the world began, it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, He couldn’t do a thing.” (John 9:30-33)
  • Martha: “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.” (John 11:27)
  • Dismas, the “Good Thief”: “Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
  • Centurion at the foot of the Cross: “This man truly was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:54)
  • Mary Magdalene, after Jesus said, “Mary!”: “She knew Him then and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ which means ‘Master.’” (John 20:16)
  • The disciples on the way to Emmaus: “[T]heir eyes were opened and they recognized Him…” (Luke 24:31)
  • Thomas: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
  • John while fishing: “The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It’s the Lord!’…” (John 21:7).


***Editor’s Note:  For Part I in this series, click here


James M. Thunder is a Washington, D.C., attorney. His master’s thesis was Aquinas on Marriage. He has published widely, including a Narthex series on lay holiness. He and his wife Ann are currently writing on the relationship between Father Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope) and lay people.

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