The second reading at Mass on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, among other things, reminded of the universal call to holiness.
There is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, ‘a day’ can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises, as anybody else might be called slow; but he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to change his ways. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and fall apart, the earth and all that it contains will be burnt up.
Since everything is coming to an end like this, you should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come, when the sky will dissolve in flames and the elements melt in the heat. What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace.
2 Peter 3:8-14
That universal call is the theme of Chapter 5 of Lumen Gentium (The Light of the Nations), the principal document where Vatican II spoke of the Church.
…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; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. 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 neighbour. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.
The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.
Lumen Gentium 40, 41
In history there have been many times when office and status have been confused with holiness, and sometimes abused for that reason. But holiness comes only from allowing oneself to be ‘moved by the Spirit’ and moving with the Spirit to come closer to God and to imitate the poor Christ.
Christians have the advantage of knowing the Christ they are to imitate. There are many others who imitate Christ even without knowing him, and even many such who are without faith. Such is the power of God’s Spirit. Such is the wonder of God’s providence.
Photograph of figure of St Margaret Clitherow, lay woman, mother and martyr, Hinsley Hall Pastoral Centre, Leeds. (c) 2003, Allen Morris.