On April 9, the day following the Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis published his third apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, (Rejoice and Be Glad). This phrase, taken from Matthew 5:12, concludes the beatitudes. Jesus presented the beatitudes as the holiness program that every Christian and person of good will is to embrace in his and her entire life.
The theme of Gaudete et Exsultate, namely the call to holiness in today’s world, is rather catchy. Is it worth it that you and me are satisfied with a mediocre existence? If we are true to ourselves we know that we are not happy at all about it. So here is the encouragement from Jesus through his Vicar on earth, Pope Francis: “He (Jesus) wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence” (GE. 1).
Letting the Holy Spirit sanctifying you and me is risky and challenging. Having said that it presents opportunities too! Thus says Pope Francis: “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” (GE, 2). But who are the candidates for holiness?Gaudete et Exsultate replies: “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” (GE, 7).
So everyone is called to be holy. Why? In its tenth paragraph of Gaudete et Exsultate Pope Francis states: “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 that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect’” (GE, 10). Practically this means you and me. Even if this has never crossed our minds!
Holiness does not mean that I believe that I am better than anyone else simply because I know more, or do more than others might have to offer. As Pope Francis says: “Thanks be to God, throughout the history of the Church it has always been clear that a person’s perfection is measured not by the information or knowledge they possess, but by the depth of their charity” (GE, 37). Holiness is not blindly following rules without loving. That is why Gaudete et Exultate reminds that “we cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty” (GE, 101).
Holiness is about trusting in Grace to help me and you reach holiness (GE, 100). It is Jesus himself who shows us the way because He is the way. In number 63 the exhortation states that “Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-23)” (GE, 63). Hence, to follow Him means going against the flow of contemporary culture (GE, 65).
Holiness impels us not to disregard the people’s sufferings and injustices in our world (GE, 67-94). Being holy means being brave. Bravery is translated into “boldness, enthusiasm, the freedom to speak out, apostolic fervour, all these are included in the word parrhesía” (GE, 129). The holy person struggles (GE, 159), is humble (GE, 118), and has a sense of humour. “Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humour. Though completely realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit. The Christian life is ‘joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17)…” (GE, 122).
Let us not be afraid to let myself and yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit to make us … HOLY!