28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B - 14th October 2018
"Rejoice and be glad" (Gaudete et exultate) is a pastoral letter of Pope Francison the call to holiness in today's world. Holiness is a gift that is offered to everyone, no one is excluded, it constitutes the distinction character of every Christian.
There can be any number of theories about what constitutes holiness, with various explanations and distinctions. Such reflection may be useful, but nothing is more enlightening than turning to the words of Jesus and seeing his way of teaching the truth. Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when He gave us the Beatitudes (MT 5 3-12)
The Beatitudes are like a Christian's identity card. So if anyone asks us:"What must one do to be a good Christian?" the answer is clear. We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes we find a portrait of the Master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives.
The word "happy" or "blessed" becomes a synonym for "holy". It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and His word, by their self-giving, gain true happiness.
Though the words of Jesus may strike us as poetic, they clearly run counter to the way things are done in our world. Even if we find the message attractive, the world pushes us towards another way of living. The Beatitudes are in no way trite or undemanding, quite the opposite. We can only practice them if the Holy Spirit fills us with His power and frees us from our weakness, our selfishness, our compliancy and our pride.
Let us once more go to Jesus, with all the love and respect that the master deserves. Let us allow his words to unsettle us, to challenge us and to demand a real change in the way we live. Otherwise holiness will remain no more than an empty word.
We will turn next month to the individual Beatitudes in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
n.b. I have omitted paragraphs 35-62 which mention two false forms of holiness that can lead us astray - gnosticism and pelagianism. These weigh down the Church and block her progress along the path to holiness. You may read these for yourself.
Fr. Ray Armstrong C.M.