Gaudete et Exsultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World. Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis. Rome: Libreria Vaticana, 2018/Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2018.
Pope Francis wrote the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be Glad) It is neither a systematic theology on the subject nor a dissertation on moral theology. It is rather an invitation to focus on the call to every human person from God to model their life on God who is holy. It is a sharing of the teaching of Jesus on God’s love for humanity and mission to restore mankind to its original dignity. In the words of St. Athanasius and St. Irenaeus, God sent his Son as a human being so that we could become God’s adopted sons and daughters by grace which makes us holy.
This exhortation is timely because it stresses the example of the saints; even “our next-door neighbor” may be one. The struggle with the enemies of genuine holiness in the modern world, contemporary Gnosticism and Pelagianism, are discussed in the second chapter. Living the beatitudes, a central concern of the document, is developed in chapter three. To conquer the enemies of holiness today, spiritual combat, vigilance and discernment are required.
Gnosticism presumes “a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings” (GE #36). Pope Francis describes it as “an intellect without God and without flesh, a doctrine without mystery.
Contemporary Pelagianism like early Gnosticism gives way to the heresy of Pelagianism. “The same power that the gnostics attributed to the intellect, others now began to attribute to the human will, to personal effort. Those who yield to this pelagian or semi-pelagian mindset even though they speak warmly of God’s grace ultimately trust only their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style.” (GE #47-49)
Chapter three In the Light of the Master is a homily on the beatitudes of Jesus (Mt. 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-23). The word blessed or happy is translated as “holy.” (#64) The beatitudes are counter cultural, they are not the way of “the world” in any age. And as in Evangelii Gaudium, Francis focuses on the poor and the marginalized to see how the beatitudes in today’s world continue to be countercultural and can only be lived with God’s grace and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Signs of Saints Today
“The signs I wish to highlight are not the sum total of a model of holiness, but they are five great expressions of love for God and neighbor that I consider of particular importance in the light of certain dangers and limitations present in today’s culture. Their antidote is perseverance, patience and meekness, joy and a sense of humor, boldness and passion, a journey in community, and constant prayer (#110-157)
Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the Church of Vatican II, devotes an entire chapter on the subject of the universal call to holiness. It is at the heart of Christian life and spirituality. The people of God are told to be holy because God is holy. Jesus reminds us that in so doing we will find eternal life.