'Rejoice and Be Glad!'

Pope Francis has a message for you. Today.

Before we get to that message, please don't be frightened by the words "Apostolic Exhortation," which refers to the form of papal teaching that the Holy Father released on Monday. And don't be put off by the Latin, Gaudete et Exsultate. It means "Rejoice and Be Glad!"

So, what is the Pope's message? God wants us to be saints and "not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence" (Gaudete et Exsultate , 1).

Do you want to be happy? Then seek holiness.

No Peace Until ...
We see a similar message in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, which Pope Francis quotes:

121. ... Christ, in a word, "is our peace" (Eph 2:14); he came "to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Lk 1:79). As he told Saint Faustina Kowalska, "Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy". So let us not fall into the temptation of looking for security in success, vain pleasures, possessions, power over others or social status. Jesus says: "My peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace" (Jn 14:27).

It's interesting to note that this apostolic exhortation was released on April 9, the day after Divine Mercy Sunday - the solemn feast our Lord asked St. Faustina to have established to honor His mercy. The feast reminds us to accept God's mercy, be merciful, and place our trust in His mercy.

That very trust in God's mercy is a key element that helps us to persevere in holiness.

It's Really for You
Several times in Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis says this teaching on the call to holiness is for everyone. One section of it is called "For You Too."

Get it yet? Well, then allow the Holy Father to spell it out:

14. To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all 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, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.

Take Small Steps
"My modest goal," the Pope writes, "is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time." Yes, this papal document gives every one us a reminder to be holy, but it also tells us how.

The path to holiness can (and should) be in every part of your life. See how many steps Pope Francis recommends in this passage alone:

16. This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: "No, I will not speak badly of anyone." This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.

The Holy Father gives examples from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and everyday situations. Here are a few categories:

o Reacting with meekness and humility: that is holiness. (74)
o Knowing how to mourn with others: that is holiness. (76)
o Hungering and thirsting for righteousness: that is holiness. (79)
o Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness (82)

Catholic Social Teaching
Some analysts speculate that the Pope wrote Gaudete et Exsultate in response to critics of his emphasis on Catholic social teaching. Pope Francis does not lessen the Church teaching on any point. Just as Gaudete et Exsultate is a call to holiness for everyone, it also calls everyone to defend the sacredness - the inherent dignity of life - of every human being.

101. The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.[84] We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.

Inspiration Near and Far
The Church encourages us to draw inspiration from the example of those it officially recognizes as saints. The Holy Father adds that we can be inspired by those among us who are, as he calls them, the "saints next door."

7. I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God's people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God's presence. We might call them "the middle class of holiness".[4]

We know that a great many souls who were instrumental in changing the course of world history will never appear in a book. We expect the same to be true of souls in the mystical life.

Always and Everywhere
Remember how we said this call to holiness is for everyone? It's also for everywhere.

23. This is a powerful summons to all of us. You too need to see the entirety of your life as a mission. Try to do so by listening to God in prayer and recognizing the signs that he gives you. Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received. Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today's world.

We might forget that the phrase "Rejoice and Be Glad" comes as part of a warning. We can expect persecution and humiliation for Jesus' sake (see Mt 5:12). For these occasions, the Holy Father recommends another prayer: "Lord, when humiliations come, help me to know that I am following in your footsteps." (120)

Then we can truly rejoice.

So, read the rest of Rejoice and Be Glad. You'll be better equipped to find steps in holiness everywhere. Don't settle for anything less.


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