22. Apr, 2018

Five great expressions of love for God and neighbour

The signs of holiness

Last week (http://www.johnthebaptistmoora.com/346443107/5726498/posting/pope-francis-reproposes-the-call-to-holiness) we looked at Gaudete et Exsultate where the Holy Father’s goal was to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way. We learnt that holiness hinges around two factors –faith and works. At its core holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life. In practice holiness requires the out-working of faith which is framed by the Beatitudes and achieved when our lives reflect the mercy of God.

Now we cover chapter four, the signs of holiness. The signs of holiness are attitudes which Pope Francis calls “five great expressions of love for God and neighbour” and are a remedy for the dangers of today’s culture such as anxiety; negativity and sullenness; the self-content bred by consumerism; individualism; and all those prevalent forms of false spirituality that have nothing to do with God.

The first sign is being grounded in the God who loves and sustains us. This is a sign of our fidelity, born of love, and is the source of our inner strength bringing perseverance, patience and meekness. This is also a “work of grace [that] prevents us from becoming carried away by the violence that is so much a part of life today because grace defuses vanity and makes possible meekness of heart.” Being grounded in God we, like the “saints, do not waste energy complaining about the failings of others.” We can “hold [our] tongue before the faults of [our] brothers and sisters and avoid the verbal violence that demeans and mistreats others.”

In the context of being grounded in God, the Holy Father then talks of (i) humility and how we should welcome humiliation; (ii) of not lording over others; and (iii) of overcoming evil with good. If we do not train ourselves in these ways we will not attain real charity and we will not be set at peace by Christ. Looks like we have some work ahead of us!

I like the second sign better which is joy and a sense of humour. To quote, “[f]ar from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humour.” I like that!

Third, holiness is boldness and passion: “it is boldness, an impulse to evangelize and to leave a mark in this world. To allow us to do this, Jesus [said] … Do not be afraid, I am with you always. These words enable us to go forth and serve with the same courage that the Holy Spirit stirred up in the Apostles, impelling them to proclaim Jesus Christ… Look at Jesus. His deep compassion reached out to others. It did not make him hesitant, timid or self-conscious.”

Fourth, “growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others… Each community is called to create a God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord.” In particular, sharing the word and celebrating the Eucharist together fosters fraternity and makes us a holy and missionary community.

Fifth. “Finally, though it may seem obvious, we should remember that holiness consists in a habitual openness to the transcendent, expressed in prayer and adoration. The saints are distinguished by a spirit of prayer and a need for communion with God. They find an exclusive concern with this world to be narrow and stifling, and, amid their own concerns and commitments, they long for God, losing themselves in praise and contemplation of the Lord. I do not believe in holiness without prayer.

Image: Mother Teresa of Calcuta, portrait painting by Robert Pérez Palou