The title of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, is based on Mt 5:12, “Rejoice and be Glad”, the words of Jesus to those persecuted or humiliated for his sake.
Why to rejoice and be glad? Because God calls us to be saints. The document offers a rich reflection on the “Call to Holiness” in today’s world with practical and simple suggestions. It exhorts not to be satisfied with mediocre spiritual lives, not to reduce the Gospel, not to despair of our own weakness, not to give up on God and the joy and gladness that He alone can bring into our lives. For us Missionaries what insights does the Exhortation give to live our missionary Charism in today’s context? There are very many simple practical suggestions to live holiness as missionaries.
“We are being called in the Spirit of the New evangelization to take up your roles as salt of the earth and light of the world, wherever you find yourself ”. (n. 33)
The following are some of the salient features that reflect the missionary dimension.
The first and most important aspect of holiness for a missionary is to be the witness of the love of God to others, to be holy and blameless before him in love, for the Lord has chosen each one of us to be messengers of His love (cf. n. 2). A sign of holiness is that one who is holy “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, spreading abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity” (n. 8).
A second insight in the document is that holiness is not only personal but also communitarian and ecclesial. Thus, we live our missionary vocation in a much deeper way along with the people of God as a common journey of living and promoting holiness in and through daily life situations. “The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for it has pleased God to make men and women holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness.” (n. 6)
A third aspect is how we reflect holiness in the realities of the humanity that lives in the peripheries both material and spiritual. While stressing the importance of prayer and worship, the Pope gives greater emphasis to acts of love and mercy, especially toward the poor and those on the periphery. “God takes us to where humanity is most wounded… So if we dare to go to the peripheries, we will find him there; indeed, he is already there. Jesus is already there, in the hearts of our brothers and sisters, in their wounded flesh, in their troubles and in their profound desolation.” (n. 135)
Fourthly, to be holy is to put into practice the Beatitudes. The Pope recalls Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in showing the way towards holiness. In a sub-chapter entitled “Going Against the Flow,” (nn.65-94) he lists each of the beatitudes, highlighting that holiness is manifested in being poor of heart, meekness and humility, knowing how to mourn with others, yearning for righteousness, keeping a heart free of all that tarnishes love, sowing peace, and accepting the path of slander and lies — the modern persecution of today. Above all, to be merciful like the Father towards others is the key to holiness. Living our missionary charism consists in practicing these attitudes of the beatitudes in the situations of periphery wherever we are present.
Fifth, the great criterion for holiness is Mat 25: 35-36, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (n.95). The Pope underlines the importance of imitating the Good Samaritan. In response to these proposals, in our mission we need to focus on challenging issues such as, ecological concerns, migrants, drug addicts, disoriented youth, human trafficking, the marginalized poor, especially children and women, having mercy as the central aspect of our mission.
The Pope proposes five signs of holiness, Perseverance, patience, meekness, joy and sense of humor. Along with these aspects, boldness and passion; the communal dimension of holiness and constant prayer are seen as a powerful means to practice holiness. The Holy Father emphasized that the call to holiness “will grow through small gestures”. (n. 16)
“Holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full and giving your best in committing yourself body and soul.”
Sr. Sundari Nagothu