To a preacher who proclaimed: “We must put God into our lives,” the sage said, “God is already there. Our business is to recognise this.” Pope Francis stresses this in his latest Apostolic Exhortation entitled Gaudete et Exsultate — Latin, meaning, “Rejoice and be glad” — Jesus’ words to those who face the toughest of situations with faith, hope and love.
We often think that only sadhus, priests and imams are to be holy. Pope Francis rubbishes this: “God wants all of us to be saints and not to settle for a bland, mediocre existence.” Based on Biblical teaching that we’re all “created in the image and likeness of god,” he writes: “I want to insist on the call to holiness that god addresses personally to you: ‘Be holy, for I [god] am holy’.”
Francis describes those he calls “saints next door” referring to “the holiness present in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see holiness … often it’s a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, who, living in our midst, reflect god’s presence.”
He continues: “We often think that holiness is only for those who withdraw from ordinary affairs to pray. That is untrue. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love, wherever we are. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your spouse … Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in serving others. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching children how to love god and serve people. … Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”
Pope Francis advises: “Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what god had in mind when god created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest, truest self.” He also warns about “a purely subjective faith comprising a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in one’s own thoughts and feelings.”
“Saints are joyful and full of good humour,” says Pope Francis. Additionally, he sees holiness in those who are humble, merciful, patient, gentle, forgiving, helpful to others and refuse to gossip. Look out of your window! Do you see some saint next-door? Nay, look within! You’ll see the seeds of holiness within, waiting to grow and to glow. Rejoice! Be glad!