Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Half way through this second week of Easter Pope Francis released an Exhortation or Letter to the whole world entitled “Gaudete et Exsultate”, (Rejoice and be Glad) in which he encourages all people to hear the call God is making for us to find our own down to earth ways of achieving holiness. This is how he begins his letter:-
What follows is not meant to be a treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification. My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4).
- I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.
- All this is important. Yet with this Exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; cf. 1 Pet 1:16). The Second Vatican Council stated this clearly: “Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – each in his or her own way to be holy”.
Gaudete et Exsultate is different in tone and emphasis from preceding documents. First, the Exhortation is addressed personally to each and every one of us, whatever our state in life or level of experience. Pope Francis often uses the informal singular expression tu (in Latin), which is how we speak domestically to friends and family. So Francis is extending a personal invitation to follow Christ.
Second, it is deliberately ‘lay’ in its language and invitation, aimed at people who live in the world, who have jobs and families and busy lives with many different pressures. Pope Francis wants people to know that they need no special education or qualifications, nor to take religious vows: just an open heart and a desire to spend some time with the Lord in prayer and by reading the Gospel. He also wants people to know that the Church has everything they need to become holy, and it is readily available to them.
This Easter Gift from our Pope is something I would like to continue sharing with you in the coming weeks leading up to the Feast of Pentecost, Fr Paul