Holiness in today’s world – Pope Francis releases new apostolic Exhortation; “Gaudete et Exsultate”

On the he Solemnity of Saint Joseph, in the year 2018, the sixth of his Pontificate, Pope Francis releases new apostolic exhortation titled “Gaudete et Exsultate” reiterating the call to holiness in the world of today.

In a world that is now distressed and where happiness seems to elude us despite the great desire of all to attain happiness, the Holy Father in this exhortation, lays out the path to true happiness, “The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.”(No.1)

  1. Holiness means being yourself

Today’s culture makes us want to perceive holiness as something out of the ordinary and an impossible feat to attain, in fact some feared to be referred to as Holy for fear that they could be tagged as antisocial by the society whereas in fact, holiness in itself is the best path to authentic and healthy socialization, bring you closer to all of humanity at the same time experiencing and showcasing the immeasurable love of Christ. Holiness can be, not only among the saints in Heaven, but also in and amongst each and everyone of us. “The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”(No.6)

He also wade off the misconception that only priest, pastors or the so called men and women of God has the capacity to be holy (No.14); but rather that each of us can and should be holy. Through the simple act of kindness, care and love for one another, we too can live out saintly life of holiness through Christ who strengthens us (No. 16). Just like there were saints at different times whose life we today venerate, that call too sainthood is today renewed and re-offered in one of us in our specific situation and realities. (No.19 & 20)

He encourages us to be inspired by the exemplary life of the women and men who have distinguished themselves in holiness and are being used in various ways by the Lord, but however calls us to that personified path with God. “…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” [10] and in No 11 he says “…We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable. There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us. (cf. 9, 10, 11)

  1. We need to avoid Gnosticism and Pelagianism

Gnosticism is the old heresy that says that what matters most is what you know. No need to be charitable and to do good deeds. All you need is correct intellectual approach. They think that faith is all about what you know.

Pelagianism means an obsession with the law, an absorption with social and political advantages, punctilious concern for the church’s liturgy, doctrine and prestige. It is danger for holiness because it robs us of humility and leaves little room for grace.

Does Holiness therefore means being infallible? Of course that should be the goal and all our actions should lead us to be like Christ; our ultimate model and saviour. But when we fail/fall along the way, do not be discouraged for even in our imperfections, God makes us perfect. The tendency to act or not to act at all when we’re faced with certain situation can sometimes push us to some extreme, In the

YCS methodology of See, Judge and Act, also known as Review of life, when we see a situation in our society, we don’t just jump to act but following what we see, we judge the situation while asking such question as, “what do Jesus ask of me in this situation?”  by so doing when we act, we do so guided by the Lord Himself, this is what the Holy Father refers to as “…reproducing in our own lives various aspects of Jesus’ earthly life: his hidden life, his life in community, his closeness to the outcast, his poverty and other ways in which he showed his self-sacrificing love.”(20, 21 – 23).

  1. Everyday life can lead to holiness

There are no specific place and time to be holy, we are called to be holy at all times and in all things, for examples when we go shopping, for sport, in school, in our job, in our quite time, with our friends and even in the noisiest of places, we can and should be holy. When we think of the ethical, social and ecological impact of our actions, these are all little ways and places to live out the Holiness which the Lord calls each and every one of us into, it is not only through extra-ordinary or unattainable act, so do not be afraid to dare to be holy as your heavenly Father is Holy (No. 26, 28, 29, 31 & 32)

With today’s culture which lure us more and more to anxiety which weakens, a world filled with negativity and sadness, consumerism, greed, intolerance and all what not, “Your identification with Christ and his will involves a commitment to build with him that kingdom of love, justice and universal peace. Christ himself wants to experience this with you, in all the efforts and sacrifices that it entails, but also in all the joy and enrichment it brings. You cannot grow in holiness without committing yourself, body and soul, to giving your best to this endeavour.”(No. 25)

  1. Be Kind – The Beatitudes are a roadmap to holiness

In Chapter 3 and 4, the Beatitudes, is presented as a road map but not only as means to holiness but also as portrait of the Lord himself. We are called to be poor in spirit, meek, peace makers, to hunger and thirst for righteousness and so on. The overall summary of holiness is in the Beatitudes: “Seeing and acting with mercy”

In concluding, Pope Francis prays for the “Holy Spirit to pour out upon us a fervent longing to be saints for God’s greater glory” and invites us to “encourage one another in this effort. In this way, we will share a happiness that the world will not be able to take from us.” (No.177)

IYCS International Secretariat, Paris

April 10th, 2018

To download the full text of the exhortation, click here


Leave a Reply