Can I be completely honest with you for a second? I am far from perfect. Yet so often in our lives, unrealistic expectations of perfection are placed upon us. They might be my own expectations for myself or expectations that others have placed upon me. My mom wrote a moving reflection for the Catholic Star Herald in which she talked about this very topic. “We still may not be that perfect ‘holy family,’” she wrote, “but we are trying to continually improve our relationship with God.” No, none of us is perfect, but the surprising thing is that this is exactly where holiness is found!
Last Monday, Pope Francis published an Apostolic Exhortation called Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) on the call to holiness in today’s world. In it, he writes this about what it means to be holy: “[Holiness] is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 34). It is precisely in my weaknesses and imperfections that God wants to make me holy. Even though I sometimes want to be perfectly holy right now, God slowly makes me holy, over the course of my entire life. “Grace, precisely because it builds on nature, does not make us superhuman all at once.” “Grace acts in history; ordinarily it takes hold of us and transforms us progressively” (50).
The specific path that God’s grace uses to take hold of us and transform us is our individual vocation. This can be as a married person, as a consecrated single person, or in a religious vocation as a seminarian, priest, deacon, or sister. No one vocation has a monopoly on holiness. Rather, God uses each one, in a unique way, to make us holy. “Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain” (14).
This Sunday, April 22, the holiness of the Church of South Jersey will be on full display at the 7th annual iRace4Vocations 5K. Bishop Sullivan will gather with those in all vocations; priests, deacons, seminarians, men and women religious, families, and those in single life; for an outdoor Mass and picnic to celebrate, pray for, and promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Even if you are not yet the “perfect Catholic”, I invite you to join us for this day of faith and fun. For all of us, it will be a day to “rejoice and be glad”.