Gaudete Et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”) is the name of Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation. “The Lord . . . wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. . . . My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and blameless before him in love’ (Eph 1:4)” (Gaudete Et Exsultate, 1, 2).
By virtue of our baptism, we share a common vocation: the call to holiness. This universal call to holiness was expressed clearly by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Church. All of us — bishops, priests and deacons, consecrated persons and lay faithful — are called to holiness through the perfection of charity, the love of God and neighbor. “When we are faithful to the grace of our Baptism we build up the Body of Christ. Each member of the Church shares this responsibility and sacred duty. It is our first vocation, and it remains primary during our entire journey of life and faith” (Faith – A Gift Received – A Treasure to Be Shared, Year of Faith Pastoral, Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham).
This coming Saturday I will celebrate the priestly ordination of Rev. Matthew Rawson. During the past few weeks, I celebrated diaconate ordinations for permanent and transitional deacons. In June, I will gather with members of the consecrated life to acknowledge their years of service in our diocese. Moreover, let us not forget that this is the Year of the Family during which we focus our special attention on the laymen and women called to the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Regardless of the path to which God calls – priesthood, consecrated life, marriage or the single life – all are called to holiness. “All the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called to the Lord, each in his own way to holiness. . . . Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which rouses hope and works through charity” (Constitution on the Church, 11, 41).
Pope Francis dispels the notion that holiness consists in withdrawal from the ordinary affairs of daily life and spending protracted time in prayer. “We are called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of others. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the littles ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a positon of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain” (Gaudete Et Exsultate, 14).
At the conclusion of my Confirmation homily, I ask the young people receiving the sacrament to be attentive in the days and years ahead to the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I remind them that God has a plan for each of them. For many it will include marriage and family. For some His plan will include the ordained ministry or consecrated life as a religious sister or brother. I ask them to keep their ears and hearts open to the plan God has for them.
We need to do our part in creating a culture that supports the vocation to holiness and assists our young people in discerning their call. This includes asking ourselves and helping others to frame the proper questions. “What does God want me to be?” “What is His plan for me?” There are different paths to holiness. It is important to find the path God has intended for each of us. Asking the right question is important, but the question must be supported by the witness of our lives. Do we take the call to holiness seriously? Do our words and actions give witness to charity — the love of God and neighbor?
While the law of love is demanding, Pope Francis reminds us that holiness grows through “small gestures of love” (Cf. 16) and attentiveness to the “little details of love” (Cf. 143-145). “The common life, whether in the family, the parish, the religious community of any other, is made up of small everyday things. . . . A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present” (Cf. 143 & 145).
Traditionally, June is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus — the heart being the symbol of love. May Jesus hold us in the warm embrace of His heart. May we be attentive to the details of love and reach out to others in gestures of love.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.