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Pontifical and Royal

University of Santo Tomas

THY4: Living the Christian Vision


in the Contemporary World

UNIT 4-Lesson 1
Harmony of Faith and Life:
Called to Holiness and Mission in Today’s World

The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of the poor or
afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as
well.” (GS, 7)

Activity: Watch the video in this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgUVQMirzfs

What are the joys and hopes, fears and anxieties of the people, especially of the youth at
present?

These are based on their context, e.g.

1. The pervasive influence of the Internet and social media


2. The emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industrial Revolution 4.0
3. The alarming issue on mental health 
4. The increasing rate of the religious “nones”

In re-proposing holiness in today’s world, Pope Francis wrote Gaudete et Exsultate in 2018.

Gaudete et Exsultate is Pope Francis’ third Apostolic Exhortation “On the Call to Holiness in
Today’s World” dated 19 March 2018 and published on 9 April 2018. In this particular
document, his “modest goal” is “to reintroduce  the call to holiness in a practical way for our
own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.”

Gaudete et Exsultate, which means “rejoice and be glad,” is taken from Matthew 5:12,
popularly known as the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus taught the Beatitudes, the
charter of Christian life and discipleship. An entire section on the Beatitudes is be especially
devoted in this apostolic exhortation. 

The text is organized into five sections or chapters: 

1. the call to holiness; 


2. the two subtle enemies of holiness: Gnosticism and Pelagianism; 

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3. the Beatitudes as pathway to holiness; 
4. signs of holiness in today’s world; and 
5. spiritual combat, vigilance and discernment. 

The basic message of the document is an invitation to be holy. It is addressed to every


Christian believer, echoing the Universal Call to Holiness beautifully expressed in Lumen
Gentium:

…all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian
life and to the perfection of charity; ...They must follow in His footsteps and conform
themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote
themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor.” (LG, 40)

Matthew 5:48 – "Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Lv 11:44;
cf. 1 Pet 1:16)

What is holiness?

Saints

Saints are persons acknowledged by the Church as holy or virtuous and regarded in Christian
faith as being in heaven after death. 

The definition of saint in the stricter or more narrow sense is that person who has been
formally “acknowledged” as holy and in heaven.  This is established by a long and careful
process of investigation that are hoped to culminate in the ceremonies of beatification and
canonization whereby a person is proclaimed “Blessed” and “Saint” in a formal and official
way. 

In essence, every Christian is a saint in process: whether in the beginning, penultimate or


final stages.  The faithful (sancti) are fed by Christ's holy body and blood (sancta) in order to
grow in the communion of the Holy Spirit (koinonia) and to communicate it to the world.

“To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted
to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much
time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love
and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.” (GE, 14)

Communion of Saints

1. "communion in holy things (sancta)" and 


2. "among holy persons (sancti)."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 948 reminds us that the Church is a communion of
saints and that the term “saint” pertains to all the faithful, that is, to all believers.

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Within this communion of saints, the saints in heaven who have already been fully sanctified
intercede for the saints who are still being sanctified on earth. Both of them intercede for the
saints in purgatory who are undergoing their final stage of purification.  

Next Door Saints

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.” - (GE, 7)

“Each in his or her own way” the Council 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. The important thing is that each
believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most
personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), rather than hopelessly
trying to imitate something not meant for them. - (GE, 11)

Holiness is about finding our specific mission in life and following that dream that the
Lord wants to dream with us. 

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“Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in
history, a certain aspect of the Gospel” (GE, 19)

“Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she
does is authentic or perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their
entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we
grasp their overall meaning as a person” (GE, 22).

Happy Saints

The Beatitudes are like a Christian’s identity card. So if anyone asks: “What must one do to
be a good Christian?”, the answer is clear. We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus
told us in the Sermon on the Mount. 
In the Beatitudes, we find a portrait of the Master, which we are called to reflect in our daily
lives. (GE 63)

In the third and central section of Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis turns to the Gospel to
find Jesus’ own definition of what it means to be holy.  He tackles the so-called Beatitudes,
which he describes as “a Christian’s identity card” (GE, 63) that distinguishes the true
followers of Christ who reflect it in their own lives, each in his or her own unique way. 

In Latin, each of the Beatitudes begins with the word “beati” which means “happy” or
“blessed.”  

Hence, the Pope notes that “the word ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’ thus becomes a synonym for ‘holy’.
It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and his word, by their self-giving, gain true
happiness.”  As such, the Beatitudes are not only a path to holiness, but also to happiness.

Pope Francis zeroes in on the fifth beatitude and calls it “the great criterion” (GE, 95) that will
form the basis of our final judgment, as the Lord himself says in Mt 25: 31-46. 

He interprets this Gospel passage, not merely as an invitation to charity, but as “a page of
Christology which sheds a ray of light on the mystery of Christ” who identifies himself with the
poor and needy.  Explaining this further, Francis tells us that “Our Lord made it very clear that
holiness cannot be understood or lived apart from these demands, for mercy is ‘the beating
heart of the Gospel’” (GE, 97).

Holiness is a Journey

To recognize the word that the Lord wishes to speak to us through one of his saints, we do
not need to get caught up in details, for there we might also encounter mistakes and failures.
Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does
is authentic or perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their entire
journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we grasp their
overall meaning as a person. (GE 22)

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The Japanese have a word to describe this wonderful reality and that is “ikigai” which can be
translated as “reason for being,” “that thing that you live for,” or “the reason you wake up in
the morning.”

“Ikigai” is the intersection of what we love, what we are good at, what we can be paid for and
what the world needs.  In this way, when our profession, passion, mission and vocation meet,
our work and life itself becomes happy, meaningful and fruitful.  To discover this, a good
measure of self-knowledge is necessary, which can only be achieved if we cultivate a
consistent daily habit of silent and prayerful reflection.

Unfortunately, many elements in our present culture do not favor this kind of self-rootedness:

1. The presence of constantly new gadgets, the excitement of travel and an endless array of
consumer goods at times leave no room for God’s voice to be heard. 
2. We are overwhelmed by words, by superficial pleasures and by an increasing din, filled not
by joy but rather by the discontent of those whose lives have lost meaning. How can we fail
to realize the need to stop this rat race and to recover the personal space needed to carry
on a heartfelt dialogue with God? 
3. Finding that space may prove painful but it is always fruitful. Sooner or later, we have to
face our true selves and let the Lord enter (GE, 29)

The two subtle enemies of holiness:


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1. Gnosticism
2. Pelagianism

GNOSTICISM

Gnosticism has to do with knowledge (in Greek, gnosis).  

In the early Church, there was an elitist group who thought that they were better than the
others because they had some secret knowledge, which the others did not know about.  
In its present manifestation, Gnosticism takes on the same “superiority complex” and religious
elitism as those who think themselves to be more learned act like know-it-alls and begin to
look down on everyone else.  “Gnostics think that their explanations can make the entirety of
the faith and the Gospel perfectly comprehensible. 

They absolutize their own theories and force others to submit to their way of thinking” (GE,
39). 

PELAGIANISM

Named after Pelagius (c. 360–c. 420), a monk who denied the doctrine of original sin and
overemphasized the power of human will, this refers to the belief that people can be saved
just by their own efforts rather than by the grace of God.  They count on merits to be worthy of
God’s love rather than relying on God’s unconditional mercy, which is always unmerited and
gratuitous. 

They share the same “superiority complex” and religious elitism and tend to look down on
others who are not as good as they think they are.  Like modern day Pharisees, they rigidly
insist on laws and structures while forgetting to be considerate to people and compassionate
especially to the weak. 

This is very dangerous because “once we believe that everything depends on human effort as
channelled by ecclesial rules and structures, we unconsciously complicate the Gospel and
become enslaved to a blueprint that leaves few openings for the working of grace” (GE, 59)”

MERCY
Mercy is what makes A Saint; Not miracles but charity…

• The great, clear, ultimate criterion by which our lives will be judged (GE 95, 104, 105) 
• It is the “key to heaven” (GE 105, EG 197) 
• It is the noblest of our actions and best shows our love for God (GE 106, ST II-II, q. 30, a.
4)
• Mercy is the antidote to today’s destructive culture of hedonism and consumerism, offering
us “a different life, a healthier and happy life” (GE 108)

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Solid grounding in the God who loves and sustains us (Perseverance, patience and
meekness… HUMILITY)

“If you are unable to suffer and offer up a few humiliations, you are not humble and you are
not on the path to holiness.” (GE 118)

“Here I am not speaking only about stark situations of martyrdom, but about the daily
humiliations of those who keep silent to save their families, who prefer to praise others rather
than boast about themselves, or who choose the less welcome tasks, at times even choosing
to bear an injustice so as to offer it to the Lord.” (GE 119)

JOY AND A SENSE OF HUMOR

“Whatever the case, we should remain resilient and imitate Saint Paul: ‘I have learned to be
content with what I have’ (Phil 4:11).” (GE, 127)
“This is not the joy held out by today’s individualistic and consumerist culture. Consumerism
only bloats the heart. It can offer occasional and passing pleasures, but not joy. Here I am
speaking of a joy lived in communion, which shares and is shared, since ‘there is more
happiness in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20:35) and ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor
9:7).” (GE, 128)

“God is eternal newness. He impels us constantly to set out anew, to pass beyond what is
familiar, to the fringes and beyond.” (GE 135)

”Complacency is seductive; it tells us that there is no point in trying to change things, that
there is nothing we can do, because this is the way things have always been and yet we
always manage to survive. By force of habit we no longer stand up to evil. We ‘let things be,’
or as others have decided they ought to be. Yet let us allow the Lord to rouse us from our
torpor, to free us from our inertia.” (GE 137)

“When we live apart from others, it is very difficult to fight against concupiscence, the snares
and temptations of the devil and the selfishness of the world…” (GE 140)
“The common life, whether in the family, the parish, the religious community or any other, is
made up of small everyday things. This was true of the holy community formed by Jesus,
Mary and Joseph, which reflected in an exemplary way the beauty of the Trinitarian
communion.” (GE 143)

IN CONSTANT PRAYER

“I do not believe in holiness without prayer, even though that prayer need not be lengthy or
involve intense emotions.” (GE 147)

“We need to remember that ‘contemplation of the face of Jesus, died and risen, restores our
humanity, even when it has been broken by the troubles of this life or marred by sin. We must
not domesticate the power of the face of Christ’. So let me ask you: Are there moments when

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you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when
you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart?” (GE 151)

SPIRITUAL COMBAT, VIGILANCE AND DISCERNMENT

“The Christian life is a constant battle. We need strength and courage to withstand the
temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel” (GE, 158).  Nevertheless, he assures us
that “this battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our
lives” (GE, 158).  

This battle occurs not just with the world or with ourselves but with the evil one, whose active
presence we cannot simply ignore or trivialize (GE, 160). 

Ignoring or trivializing the evil one “would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and
end up more vulnerable” (GE, 161).