August 17, 2018

Christ the Cornerstone

Turn to Mary, who shows us how to be holy

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humor. Though certainly realistic, they radiate a positive and hopeful spirit”
(Pope Francis, “Gaudete et Exsultate,” #122).

This is the final column on Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”). During the last several weeks, this column has offered reflections on what it means to be holy.

Holiness is not something remote or inaccessible. It is close to us, available to everyone. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy to be holy. It simply means that God reaches out to each of us through the power of his grace and invites us to be our own true selves, the people he created us to be. The obstacles are many—especially our own sinfulness and the temptations of the evil one. But God’s love and mercy sustain us and encourage us to grow in wisdom, courage and love.

God does not call us to holiness and then abandon us. He stands with us—closer to us than we are to ourselves—and he walks with us, accompanying us on the journey to true life in him. God gives us the gifts we need to discover and do his will. These include prayer and the sacraments, the inspiration of holy reading and reflection on God’s word, and the example of the saints—including “ordinary” people, such as our mothers and grandmothers, who are not perfect, but who are serious about living the Gospel in their daily lives.

Two days ago, on Aug. 15, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. Mary’s holiness is a model for us all. As the mother of our Lord and our mother, Mary shows us how to be holy. Starting with her openness to the mysterious will of God, which changed her life radically, Mary shows us how to say “yes” to whatever God asks.

As Pope Francis tells us in his concluding remarks: “I would like these reflections to be crowned by Mary, because she lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other. She is that woman who rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword. Mary is the saint among saints, blessed above all others. She teaches us the way of holiness, and she walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen, and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us. Our conversation with her consoles, frees and sanctifies us. Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives. All we need to do is whisper, time and time again: ‘Hail Mary…’ ” (“Gaudete et Exsultate,” #176).

We, too, can be holy. We can live the Beatitudes to the best of our ability. We can open our hearts to Jesus and accept both the joys and the sorrows of his way of life. We can trust in God’s mercy so that when we fall short of his hopes for us we can beg for forgiveness and rejoice in his saving grace. We can turn to Mary our Mother at any time, and she will guide us to her son, Jesus. We can whisper her name day in and day out, and she will show us how to be holy.

Holiness is not something that is reserved for people who are “better than us.” It is for us.

As the pope says, “When in God’s presence we examine our life’s journey, no areas can be off limits. In all aspects of life, we can continue to grow and offer something greater to God, even in those areas we find most difficult.” All we need to do is “to ask the Holy Spirit to liberate us, and to expel the fear that makes us ban him from certain parts of our lives” (“Gaudete et Exsultate,” #175). God knows our secrets and the hidden burdens we carry in our hearts. Let’s ask him to set us free!

And let’s turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask her to intercede for us so that we, too, can say “yes” to God’s will. Let’s ask her to show us how to live the Beatitudes of Jesus and grow in holiness in every aspect of our daily lives. “In this way,” Pope Francis tells us, “we will share a happiness that the world will not be able to take from us” (“Gaudete et Exsultate,” #177). †

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