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Ramiro Pellitero Iglesias, Professor of Theology, University of Navarra, Spain School

Holiness for all

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 08:18:00 +0000 Posted in Church and New Evangelization

In the apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate ("Rejoice and be glad"), on the call to holiness in today's world (19-III-2018), Pope Francis explains the Christian path to holiness. A path that is proposed for everyone and of which we Christians must be especially aware(See Vatican video average).

After explaining the meaning of holiness, he warns of some misinterpretations. Then sample the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. He then presents some manifestations or characteristics of holiness. He concludes by highlighting some of the means available to Christians to collaborate in their own holiness. In a first and quick reading, it is important to point out a few points.

Holiness: Christian way

The first chapter ("The Call to Holiness") presents the protection and closeness of the saints. The saints are people of the people, of the holy and faithful people of God, with an expression pleasing to Francis. Many have lived and live close to us (it is the holiness "next door"). The call to holiness is addressed to every believer. "All of us," writes the Pope, echoing the Second Vatican Council, " are called to be saints, living with love and offering one's witness in the occupations of every day, wherever each one is. " Every saint is a mission statement" that is lived by reproducing in one's own life the mysteries of Christ's life. And this mission statement makes life fuller, more joyful, more holy.

Francis highlights "two subtle enemies of holiness (chapter two), relying on the declarations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Letter Placuit Deo, 22-II-2018): current Gnosticism and Pelagianism. They are - he affirms - two forms of anthropocentrism, disguised as Catholic truth. Salvation cannot be sought by reason or will alone, because God alone saves man. Instead, these paths lead to a superiority complex that forgets the primacy of God's grace and the importance of mercy towards one's neighbor, the recognition of one's own sins and attention to the material and spiritual needs of others.

Holiness for all, today

"In the light of the Master" (chapter three) we see that Christians are called to be happy by seeking God's love and service to those around us. This is clear in the Beatitudes and in the parable of the Last Judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46). St. Teresa of Calcutta said: "if we are too busy with ourselves, we will have no time left for others".

As "notes of holiness in today's world" (chapter four) Francis points out: endurance, patience and meekness; joy and a sense of humor; audacity and fervor; the communitarian dimension of holiness; the need for constant prayer (together with the reading of the Sacred Scripture and the meeting with Jesus in the Eucharist).

Exit from ourselves

Finally (chapter five), to advance towards holiness he proposes three means: spiritual combat (among other things because the devil exists); examination of conscience (to avoid corruption and lukewarmness); and discernment (to know how to walk where God leads us with freedom of spirit, generosity and love, and taking into account the "logic of the cross").

"Discernment," Francis writes, "is not a self-absorbed self-analysis, a selfish introspection, but a true going out of ourselves towards the mystery of God, which financial aid us to live the mission statement to which he has called us for the good of our brothers and sisters.

His clear and direct language makes this exhortation an incisive proposal , which can bring forth many fruits of Christian life and evangelization. The way to holiness is to seek union with Jesus Christ. Holiness, in fact, does not require special abilities, nor is it reserved to the most intelligent or educated. It only requires letting oneself be made by the Holy Spirit: "Allow him," the Pope advises, "to forge in you that mystery staff which reflects Jesus Christ in today's world".