Pope Francis has released an apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate [Rejoice and Be Glad]on holiness. [Apostolic exhortation is the second most important document of Pope after encyclical]. And the topic is normally an up-in-the-air one. Most people considers holiness as unreachable. We address Pope Francis and some religious leaders as ‘His/Her Holiness’. Thus holiness, which is considered an attribute of God is really difficult to attain (atleast this is the common view). Probably the document of Pope Francis brings holiness accessible to all; he helps us to understand the meaning of holiness in the context of our struggles and life-situations.
There are already numerous analysis on this document available online. I too have read a few of them besides glancing through the document (haven’t done a rigorous reading). Some of my takeaways are..
- Beautiful analysis on each of the 8 beatitudes. The most interesting part is Francis gives 8 definitions of holiness, which are really practical. Some of my favourites are: Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness, Sowing peace all around us: that is holiness, Accepting daily the path of the Gospel, even though it may cause us problems: that is holiness.
- Holiness is possible for all people within their daily circumstances. Each are invited to find their own paths of holiness. The help of Holy Spirit is this regard is something that is stressed here.
- It stresses on joy and sense of humour. It speaks of alive-ness as the sign of being human.(the famous saying attributed to St Ireneus).
- It speaks of 2 subtle enemies, gnosticism (extensive focus on intellectualism) and pelagianism (excessive focus on my actions and not at all on God’s Grace).
- This document surely has an Ignatian touch. Anyone who has done a month long Ignatian retreat or familiar with Ignatian spirituality will see the explicit and implicit links. For me, it makes me conscious of my own Ignatian/Jesuit identity and an invitation to go deeper into it. [This is nothing to boast of, but it reveals how deeper experiences of life continue to haunt you/influence you, whatever you do].
One line definition I derive(it is not there as such)from this document is “Holiness is not in the extremes, but living a life in harmony” — Harmony with creator, creation and other human beings. More than an individual thing, holiness is also a collective/group matter. It is an invitation — to forsake any sort of extremes like intellectualism, spiritualism, ‘I can do everything’, ‘word to word following of laws and all such tendencies — to move to a life of harmony.