This year Pope Francis has dedicated the Year of Consecrated Life. I don't know if any of you have been made aware of this? Remember how last year he dedicated the year to The Joy of the Gospel? It makes a lot of sense to me because joy is the first fruit of a consecrated heart.
Each one of us are called to be consecrated to God, as the call to Holiness is a universal call. Today, more than ever we are reminded of the state of our world, and how there is a great need for our world to become holy. The world will be holy when countries are holy, and countries will be holy when people are holy. So let's be encouraged by the invitation to become holy and joyful men and women.
In his message for the year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis points out that it is through our lives that we point to the reality of God and that we can offer an alternative to the mirage of the various utopias that are presented by the world.
HOLINESS IS NOT SOMETHING WE CAN GET FOR OURSELVES, OR OBTAIN WITH OUR OWN TALENTS AND ABILITIES. Holiness is a gift from Jesus and we receive and rediscover holiness when we are in communion with God. Jesus desires that we come closer to Him so that He can make us holy.
Universal call to Holiness
Pope Francis also makes the point very clearly that consecrated life is not just reserved for a privileged few. To be consecrated is not only for the bishops, nuns, missionaries and priests. IT'S FOR EVERYONE. Being consecrated to God is a process of becoming holy; becoming more Godlike and striving to live out the values of the Gospel.
"Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification".(1Thes 4:3a) However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called "evangelical."(Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church; 39.)
Each of us are called to be holy. What Jesus wants the most is that we come close to His heart. To draw close to Him and to learn from Him how we can become holier. Many times we can think that holiness is only for those who have time to pray, those who can devote themselves to prayer all day. But it's not that way at all! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes, bowing your head and putting on a really pious face. Holiness is something much greater and more profound than our external gestures.
How many times holiness can become a hat that we put on when we pick up the Bible, or we go to Mass. Holiness I liken to being WHOLE. In Mt 5:48, we are invited to "be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect." Being holy just as our Heavenly Father is holy. It's a process of learning to integrate all the aspects of our life- the emotional, spiritual, physical and the intellectual.
We're not instantly holy when we put on a soft voice and speak like a little angel thinking that will make us closer to God. Jesus listens when we're upset, and when we are honest with Him. We don't have to change personality or speak to Him in a smooth and soft voice. He recognises us as we are.
I remember when I first started coming to the prayer group with the missionaries. There was a girl in the group that always sat at the front of the chapel and had her head bowed so reverently. She would say the most amazingly long and beautiful prayers which were like mini homilies! But to be honest I could never relate to what she said! Because she used words that I didn't understand,, a holy vocabulary that I couldn't get. We don't have to make up holy words or pretend with Jesus, but rather, we need to be ourselves. Come to Him as we are and that's where He can begin to make us more holy, more like Him, and more in His image. For example, everyone in the particular state of life in which you find yourselves, are called to become holy:
- ARE YOU CONSECRATED? Then be holy living out your consecration to the full and live your ministry with more joy.
- ARE YOU MARRIED? Be holy in the love that you show to your husband or wife. Treat them with the respect and concern that God has for them.
- ARE YOU SINGLE? Then be holy by being honest with yourself and with others and give yourself generously to the needs of those around you
We can easily find ourselves making excuses. I am a Graphic Designer and I work all day with computers. I can't be a saint! Yes you can. Your workplace is the field where you can become a saint. How many opportunities we have in conversations with others to be holy and show the face of God. God speaks to us all the time and most intimately through His Word. So we all have the means to become holy.
Are you a parent? A grandparent? A friend, brother, sister, son or daughter? An aunt or an uncle? There are so many opportunities in the daily interactions that we have to share our faith in Jesus with our loved ones.
Holiness grows in the very act of patience when we speak to our loved ones. It takes a lot of patience to be a good brother, a good sister, daughter, friend, mother or father. When we send text messages, are we being holy? Or am I just impatient and impersonal because it's quicker to communicate that way? Am I transmitting God's love to those around me? When I put up links or photos on Facebook, are they going to lead others to Jesus? Our senses are the first window that lets in the light, so what we look at can make us holy or unholy. Do I look at things that Jesus would look at?
The Holy Spirit is always there nudging us along in the right direction. It's good to make a stop in our lives and ask ourselves in the setting of prayer, "Are we responding to God's call to holiness?"
Do we want to improve and become a more consistent Christian? As St Paul so eloquently puts it, "Brothers (and sisters), I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward to Christ Jesus." (Philippians: 3:13-14). We are each in this process and journey of becoming holy. Where are we on the journey?
The call to be holy is a call to be joyful and to live every moment of the day with God and for others. After a long day at work, you arrive home to either a phone call or someone wanting to share with you about their day and their plans. Regardless of the tiredness that you experience, sit down and listen to them with patience. This is a step towards holiness. When there's a need in the parish community to help out a bit more, do I shy away from offering myself or do I put my hand up? When it comes time to share our faith and say a simple word or two to encourage someone to have hope, do I follow my feelings and remain silent?
If we are constantly talking with God in a personal dialogue, we will become holy. Prayer makes us holy. Does my daily task of things to do contain my personal prayer time? Is it at the top of the list or somewhere near the bottom where things don't matter if I don't get to them?
Every step towards holiness makes us better people and frees us from being selfish and closed in on ourselves. Jesus is our greatest example as He was open to the needs of the people around Him, and He was never closed in on Himself.
One thing to remember is that every little step is a step closer to holiness. No matter how we feel about ourselves, how weak we feel, or how small our faith is; if we offer that to Jesus, He will make it grow.
We can't become holy or grow in faith by ourselves. We need to come to Jesus and ask Him to help us.
"Like the apostles, came to Jesus and said Lord, "Increase our faith." Jesus responded to them very simply.... "all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed.""(Luke 17:5-6).
Let's take a look then at the size of our faith. Have you seen how small a mustard seed is? Hold up your thumb and pointer - a small mustard seed is a tiny as a speck between our fingers. That's how big it is. We can all muster up a speck of faith can't we? Who doesn't have that amount of faith? No one right?
Jesus says to the apostles, all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed. All that we need is the small faith that we have. Jesus was a carpenter but he was also good at maths! He multiplies our offerings! It's about what God can do in us, not what we can do alone. Let's approach Jesus and say, Lord, my faith is weak, fragile; but I offer it to you so that you will make it grow. Faith does not come from us, it comes from Jesus. Faith is God's realm.
In the Gospel of Mark 6:36-46, when the crowd reaches more than 5000 men, not counting women and children; Jesus invites the disciples to offer the little that they have, so that He can feed all the people. Despite being good sceptics, they give Jesus the five loaves and two fish that they have. After Jesus accepts and blesses their offering, there is more food than they know what to do with.
The same can happen to us when we offer Jesus the little that we have. With the little faith you have, offer it Him and watch what He will do with it, watch how He multiplies it to be enough for all those who are needy. Our vision is very different from Jesus' vision. For example, where we see obstacles, he sees opportunities; where we see only failure and negativity, he sees success; where there is a closed door, he is there to open it.
We need to make an act of humility in order to offer what we have. In our world that is full of delusions, where we can find ourselves thinking that we're better than we are and holier than we really are; being humble helps us to see that without God we are nothing, and we can do nothing.
Holiness is not about being 'good' but about being Christ. To be holy is to love as Christ loves. This indeed is the universal call to holiness – the call to love one another as Christ loves us.
Let's approach Jesus in a humble way, asking Him to increase our small and weak faith, to believe that we can become holier, and that with His power awe can love as He loves.
Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity