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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories: Holiness – Living the Blessings We Receive

Sometimes we struggle with what it means to be holy. It often appears to be something “other worldly” or at least removed from the world in which we ordinarily live. Over the course of history, holiness seemed to be confused with distancing ourselves from our everyday life. In some cases, the world around us has been perceived as a threat or an “enemy” to holiness. This poses some problems for us. How can we live our lives in a way that is holy while finding ourselves in the world of our experience?

Our Christian faith is incarnational. Central to who we are is Jesus the Christ, the sign and sacrament of God’s love for all humanity and indeed for our created world. Holiness is not about denying our humanity or the wonder of creation. It is about honouring, respecting and valuing the whole of creation as a blessing, a beatitude of God’s presence among us.

Luke’s Gospel presents us with the disciples’ call to recognize the blessedness around us, even in the midst of hardships and challenges – poverty, hunger, sorrow and rejection (Lk.6:20-22). He then goes on to describe how disciples can bring out and express this holiness, acknowledging the blessing of God’s love alive in the times and places of our lives (Lk.6:27-38). Living as blessings for one another makes faith in Jesus the Christ come alive. Doing so, we sow the seeds of the reign of God around us and with it, hope of peace and justice, compassion and healing, love and respect.

Pope Francis captured some of this in his Apostolic Exhortation On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World (19 March 2018). He offered a wonderful description of the holiness for which we strive as disciples: 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…. 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”. (7)

In his exhortation, Francis echoed the “universal call to holiness” presented by the Second Vatican Council in 1964. Holiness in the midst of our lives offers the power of transforming the activities and events of everyday life into holy moments (Vatican II, The Constitution on the Church 40). Both the Gospels of Luke and Matthew speak in terms of blessings which make a difference in life. Such blessings are placed at the center of Jesus’ call to his disciples (Luke ch.6; Matthew ch.5).

We are all about holiness, but not piety or removal from the joy and challenges of ordinary life. Rather we recognize and live our holiness in the very events and times of everyday. We see it in the wonder of all creation. We celebrate it in our relationships with one another. We marvel at it in the simple witness of a child’s smile, in the loving hug of a mother, in the caring compassion of a father. We experience it in the bond that unites a community and in the openness that welcomes the stranger.

Beatitudes or blessing surround us. Our holiness is the expression of the blessing we hold within and that we share with others. In this we are the face of God’s love and the expression of the indwelling Spirit to our world.

Reflection Question - What are some blessings I am seeing in my life today?

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