The Holy See issued Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation this past Monday – Gaudete et Exsultate. The first words in Latin of the document (which become the Church’s customary manner to refer to it) come from Matthew 5:12, “Rejoice and be glad.” These are the very words of Jesus at the conclusion of the Beatitudes telling his followers that, even when you experience persecution or humiliation for the sake of Him and the Gospel, nonetheless “rejoice and be glad.”
The Exhortation is our Holy Father’s invitation to live a life of holiness in today’s world. He begins by reminding us of the many Holy Ones – Saints – from the Old and New Testaments as well as throughout the history of Christianity who have responded to “be holy as I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2; cf. also Mt 5:48). The universal call to holiness was at the heart the Second Vatican Council, a reminder from the bishops at the time that each person who is baptized into Christ is to seek always a holy life based on the Paschal Mystery, Jesus’ death and resurrection. Holiness, then, is for each of us; not just for the so-called “religious professionals,” those ordained or living in consecrated religious life. Everyone has the vocation, the call from God, to seek a life of holiness.
Pope Francis recognizes the challenges there are in today’s world to answer this call. We all struggle because of the many things that distract us, divide us and make us act more as individuals instead of (1) seeing ourselves as a community of faith and (2) working for the common good, i.e., the good of all. He reminds us of the boldness and passion it takes to be holy, the commitment to never be afraid to live the Gospel and proclaim it in all our words and deeds.
Maybe one of his key teachings in the document is this short sentence: “Keeping a heart free of all that tarnishes love: that is holiness” (no. 86.)
I invite you to read the text in its entirety. You will be able to find it on the Vatican’s website (www. vatican.va). Let us renew our commitment to live holy lives, worthy of whose name we bear as Christians, Jesus Christ our Lord.