Holiness- A Gift Offered to All the Baptised
Once again we are invited to celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. We can admire and be inspired by the example of all the saints and be aided by their prayers. But as we celebrate we can also be challenged, challenged with the invitation to become one of their number!
Our reaction to this may take many forms, perhaps it is ‘Lord, I am not worthy…’ or alternatively we may share the sentiments of Groucho Marx who famously said “I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.” And yet the challenge and the invitation remain. By God’s grace we are called to become saints.
Many will know that this theme was emphasised at Vatican II and again significantly at the turn of the Millennium with these words:
“stressing holiness remains more than ever an urgent pastoral task. It is necessary therefore to rediscover the full practical significance of Chapter 5 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, dedicated to the ‘universal call to holiness’. The Council Fathers laid such stress on this point, not just to embellish ecclesiology with a kind of spiritual veneer, but to make the call to holiness an intrinsic and essential aspect of their teaching on the Church. The rediscovery of the Church as ‘mystery’, or as a people ‘gathered together by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’, was bound to bring with it a rediscovery of the Church’s ‘holiness’, understood in the basic sense of belonging to him who is in essence the Holy One, the ‘thrice Holy’ (cf. Is 6:3). To profess the Church as holy means to point to her as the Bride of Christ, for whom he gave himself precisely in order to make her holy (Eph 5:25-26). This as it were objective gift of holiness is offered to all the baptised.”(NMI 30)
This striking last sentence deserves some consideration, it tells us clearly that the gift of holiness is offered to all the baptised. This gift of holiness is offered therefore to us and to all those that we journey with on the RCIA process, all seeking baptism and full belonging to the Church. It reminds us that we are all on a journey. Some of us may be on a journey of initiation, but all of us are on the journey towards holiness. On this journey we accompany each other. And it is ultimately, from an eternal perspective, it is the only journey that really counts.
Pope John Paul II goes on to stress that the gift of holiness “in turn becomes a task, which must shape the whole of Christian life: ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Th 4:3). It is a duty which concerns not only certain Christians: ‘All the Christian faithful, of whatever state or rank, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity’”. (NMI 30)
So as we celebrate together, as we journey together, let us take this opportunity to be open to holiness, to be open to the gift that it is, and open to the task that it entails. And as we do so let us remember that many have trod this path before us, and pray for us to join them.