Speak Lord: Call us to holiness

Saints, Czartoryski museum, CracowThe second reading on Sunday continues our reading of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

And it contains both challenge and encouragement.

I want to urge you in the name of the Lord, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that pagans live. Now that is hardly the way you have learnt from Christ, unless you failed to hear him properly when you were taught what the truth is in Jesus. You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4:17,20-24

The Lord comes to us to change us. He comes to heal, restore, guide us to ourselves, to the fulness of our humanity to likeness to him.

This change was gifted to us in baptism, but our receiving, ‘owning’, and living of this gift is the work for a lifetime. We need to grow into it, to become skilled in being ourselves.

Today is the day for freshly welcoming and enjoying the gift and the opportunities it brings us.

  • What illusory desires befuddle you? What helps you see through them?
  • What most attracts you about the newness to which God invites you?

Fragment of frieze of saints. Czartoryski museum Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: the holiness of God even in us

 

Margaret Clitherow

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.

Taste and See: Saints of God, called to holiness by God

Popes

The Prayer over the Offerings used on Sunday speaks our being sanctified by God’s grace.

Accept, O Lord, we pray, the offerings
which we bring from the abundance of your gifts,
that through the powerful working of your grace
these most sacred mysteries may sanctify our present way of life
and lead us to eternal gladness.

Through Christ our Lord.

The prayer reminds of one of the foundational teachings of the Church, that all people are called by God to holiness. This universal call received fresh emphasis at Vatican II, in the teaching about the Church, Lumen Gentium, ‘Light of the peoples’.

There is still a tendency to think of the saints whose names pepper the Church’s calendar as the real saints, and that we are called to something less. But no: those named saints are exceptional, and singled out as being such, but holiness, sanctity, is not so rare.

Pope John Paul II, now himself declared a saint by the Church, canonised more saints during his pontificate than had been formally declared saint in the whole history of the Church up until that time! And one major reason for his doing so was to show that saints are present in the church in every age, every land, every state of life.

The Church’s recent practice, including the canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, and the forthcoming beatification of Pope Paul VI, seems to be continuing the re-visioning of the place of the canonised in the Church, begun by St John Paul II.

It returns us, almost, to the Pauline vision that all the baptised are called to be, and are – by virtue of God’s grace, the saints of God.

Everyone in the Church, whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness…

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.” This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit… gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness.

The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and everyone of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consumator of this holiness of life: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Indeed He sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that He might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength and that they might love each other as Christ loves them. The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. They are warned by the Apostle to live “as becomes saints”, and to put on “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience”, and to possess the fruit of the Spirit in holiness. Since truly we all offend in many things we all need God’s mercies continually and we all must daily pray: “Forgive us our debts”

Thus it is evident to everyone, that 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 neighbor. 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.

From Lumen Gentium, Chapter 5

  • Where is holiness manifest in your life?
  • And the lives of those around you?
  • How is holiness different to ‘good works’?