Approaching the seventh decade of my life has given me pause to think and reflect. There is a prayer said at the graveside at the end of a funeral which reads:
“Lord God, whose days are without end and whose mercies beyond counting, keep us mindful that life is short and the hour of death unknown. Let your Spirit guide our days on earth in the ways of holiness and justice, that we may serve you in union with the whole Church, sure in faith, strong in hope, perfected in love.”
In this prayer we ask that the Spirit guide us in ways of holiness and justice in the days we have left on earth. What are the ways of holiness? Every one of us is called to live a life of holiness. The great call in the fifth chapter of the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium” on the Church is God’s call to all to holiness.
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation on holiness “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), which he wrote in 2018 was about holiness. He says the Lord wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. His purpose in writing the letter was to “repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time…” When I am asked “what does it mean to be holy?” I always reply: “being holy is becoming the person God created you to be. In other words, being whole. It takes a lifetime to grow to maturity.”
As we begin Ordinary time of the liturgical year, we are presented with two themes to consider this Sunday. We can link these with being holy. We begin an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity from Saturday 18th January till the feast of the Conversation of St Paul on Saturday 25th January and in England and Wales this Sunday has been designated Peace Sunday. A call to be holy means a call to love and that love needs to be expressed in our love for one another not just Catholics but all those who are baptised. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church it suggests that one way of responding to the call for unity is conversion of heart. This mean we “try to live holier lives according to the Gospel”; for it is the unfaithfulness of the members to Christ’s gift which causes divisions; We are also encouraged to pray in communion because “change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name ‘spiritual ecumenism;’ As we keep Peace Sunday, we heed the words of Pope Francis who says
“peacemakers truly “make” peace, they build peace and friendship in society. “It is not easy to “make” this evangelical peace, which excludes no one but embraces even those who are a bit odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, different, beaten down by life or simply uninterested. It is hard work; it calls for great openness of mind and heart. Building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity and skill. Sowing peace all around us: that is holiness”