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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories: Real Holiness, True Spirituality

Summertime in Canada brings with it a new appreciation for the beauties of this land. It is important that we acknowledge that we share this land with others. In particular we share it with the indigenous peoples of our country. They are gifted with a spirituality that is especially aware of the sacredness of the land on which we stand. We have much to learn from them. There is a sacredness, a holiness that fills the earth.

Often, we seem to regard “holiness” as being “other worldly”, removed from regular, ordinary life. What we sometimes speak of as “fundamentalism” even has our Christian faith and practice fighting with our world, denying that holiness even has a place in it. Doing so, is to deny our humanity and the wonder of creation with which God has surrounded us.

Real holiness lives in this world. It is marked by gratitude, acknowledging the marvel of our humanity as God’s gift. This is true holiness. In some ways that is the full meaning of what we call the Incarnation, that our God so loves the world that in Jesus, God shares our humanity cf.(John 3:16-17).

In Luke’s Gospel (Lk.12:13-21), Jesus tells a story, a parable of a person whose crops thrived and he wondered what to do with this abundance. So great was his crop that he decided to build larger barns in order to store it all for the future. But his future was brief and he could not control it. Great as his crops were, his true richness and happiness rested not in them, but in his openness to God’s abiding presence all around him.

So often we miss the present blessing as we wait for some future one or find ourselves wrapped up in some future goal. Seeing and appreciating the present blessings is what makes life meaningful and brings happiness. Such vision is the stuff of holiness.

Sacred moments, places and perhaps especially persons surround us constantly. At first sight, they are ordinary and common for us. But they are in fact part of the God creative gift of life for us. They represent the constant presence of God in all aspects of life. To have an openness and a growing awareness of this presence is the meaning of holiness in every human heart. Building a spiritual life is the quest for this openness and awareness.

In a piece he published in 2018, Pope Francis reminded us of the spirituality that it all around us: “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’.” (Gaudete et Exultate March, 2018 7)

Real holiness, for life, is found in our relationships. Such holiness follows the pattern of Jesus. It offers the face of God’s mercy and love. It heals and reconciles others. It feeds the hungry, frees the captives, gives light to those in darkness. We live holiness when we live with love, in word and in action. Holiness is not a future hope, but a present reality – when we come to see it, when we respond to the invitation from God to be present with us where we are.

In his Encyclical Letter, Fratelli tutti (Brothers and Sisters All, Oct 2020) Pope Francis again called all humanity to recognition of the holiness we have through our relationships. We are all “brothers and sisters”. He closes the letter with these word of prayer:

May our hearts be open to all the peoples and nations of the earth,

May we recognize the goodness and beauty that you have sown in each of us,

And thus forge bonds of unity, common projects, and shared dreams. Amen

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