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Holiness is the common, ordinary vocation for each one of us

Homily for School of Ministry Mass

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily on Saturday, June 9, 2018 at St. Mary Cathedral during School of Ministry Mass.

A few weeks ago, in a beautiful reflection, Gaudete et Exsultate, Rejoice and Be Glad, Pope Francis reminded us of our call to holiness, the common or ordinary vocation of all the baptized faithful. He wrote:

Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self (Gaudete et Exsultate 1: 32).

But we are, in fact, often afraid – and the reason that we are is found in our first reading from the Book of Genesis which tells the story of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Sin alienates us from God who is all holy. Our shame can lead us to hide from God – as Adam and Eve hid from God in garden. The Evil One – that Master of Deceit – can lead us to think that to be faithful to God is to be unfaithful to our true selves. This is the sad fate that both original sin and our own actual sins have bequeathed us – a fate from which we are saved by Jesus Christ. As St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “…the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence.” Yes, “with the Lord, there is mercy and fullness of redemption.”

Jesus comes into a broken world to heal it. This broken world is, in many ways, a world turned upside down. And Jesus lives in the world right side up – unlike the sons and daughters of Adam, he is not turned away from God but is always turned towards God, his father. Sin has obscured who we are – who we are meant to be, creatures made in the image and likeness of God. In Christ, we rediscover our truest selves. In Christ – the new Adam - we rediscover what it means to be made in God’s own image and likeness. He opens to us the path to wholeness – and holiness. Thus, to cite St. Paul again, “… we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

But this happens when, united with Jesus, we walk with him in this upside down world right side up – living in the world as Sons and Daughters of the Father. But living right side up in an upside down is not easy – for we will encounter opposition as Jesus did from the Pharisees and Scribes who accused him of casting our demons by the power of the Prince of Demons, and even members of our family –like Jesus’ relatives who thought that he was out of his mind – might think of us as a bit crazy.

What Jesus says and does often confounds the expectations of those around him. Jesus can be and is disconcerting. But to return to what Pope Francis says, “Do not be afraid.” We need to be open and willing to be surprised by God when we seekto do all that God wants of us. As Jesus says, “Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” Doing the will of God, seeking after holiness does not diminish us, it does not deprive us of anything that is truly of value. Again as Pope Francis says, “it will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy.” Rather, in the words of our Second Reading, “… the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.”

This evening there is cause for great thanksgiving as a number of our faithful – in response to their baptismal call to holiness – have in their efforts to be better formed in faith have completed coursework in our School of Ministry. “Grace is multiplied among the people” this evening as you are commissioned in various lay ministries. The School of Ministry in which you have participated – and which has demanded of you no little commitment of your time and talent is more than an opportunity for personal enrichment – although it does certainly entail that; but, more importantly, it has been – please God – an opportunity to equip you – with all your energy and vitality, and joy – for greater service in the Church and for sharing your witness of holiness as Missionary Disciples of Jesus Christ.

This Sunday we return to what the liturgist call “ordinary time” - to distinguish this time from those extraordinary seasons of Advent, Lent and Easter. The call to holiness is not an extraordinary vocation – reserved for certain elites in the Church; it is the common, ordinary vocation for each one of us who has a new creation baptized in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It is the vocation to live fearlessly right side up in an upside down world and thus become what the Father had in mind when he created us in his own image and likeness.

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