Gaudete et Exsultate or Rejoice and Be Glad, is the third apostolic exhortation of the Holy Father, Pope Francis after Evangelium Gadium (The Joy of the Gospel) and Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). This document (over 20,000 words, divided into five chapters and 177 paragraphs) addresses the universal call to holiness in today’s world by taking up an important theme of the Second Vatican Council (1963).
In the first chapter (#1-34), His Holiness emphasises that every Christian must discern how the Lord is calling us to holiness and it is the “most attractive face of the Church.” He also encourages and challenges each one of us to respond to the call to holiness because holiness is necessary for our life’s happiness that the world cannot take from us. He asserts that we should not be afraid of living a life of holiness because it doesn’t make us less human nor does it deprive us of our energy, vitality and joy.
In the second chapter (#35-62), Pope Francis warns us about the danger that we face in our spiritual journey with two ancient heresies of Gnosticism (knowledge) and Pelagianism in false form of holiness in the present world. Gnosticism prefers “a God without Christ, a Christ without the Church and a Church without the people.” Whereas Pelagianism speaks of human will, human intellect and personal efforts rather than the grace of God.
There are tendencies that we fall into temptation at times, violence in our thoughts, digital communications, consumerism, greed and the real danger of Satan himself. Gnosticism and Pelagianism may bring the image of the Church down or block the progress of the Church to set her people to grow in holiness. All we need is correct intellect approach if not it will take our humility and leave little room for grace.
Once the Holy Father cleared these confusions of Gnosticism and Pelagianism, he encourages every one of us to live out the Beatitudes, (Mt 5:3-12) in our own way of our lives in the third chapter (#63-94). He goes on to educate us about the nature of holiness by reflecting on the Beatitudes that “they are the key to unlocking the Christ-life within us.” Over the times all of us have watered down the Beautitudes and he wants us to give very practical ways of how to take on these challenges to make our life happy by living out the Beatitudes in our daily lives.
In chapter four (#110-157), Pope Francis discusses the “Sign of holiness in Today’s World,” by offering five great expressions of the love of God and that of neighbour: Perseverance, Patience and Meekness; Joy and a Sense of Humour; Boldness and Passion; Community and Constant Prayer. At the end of this chapter on the section on prayer, he stresses that our striving for holiness should be rooted in the prayerful reading of scripture, spending time with the Lord in prayer, self-examination of conscience, helping others, maintaining and upholding human dignity in order to restore our humanity.
The last chapter is about a Spiritual Combat (#158-177), where it deals with the reality of Satan and he points out that the phrase “deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s Prayer is more accurately translated as “deliver us from the evil one.” The Holy Father wants us to “stand against the wiles of the evil” (Eph 6:11) and to “quench all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16).
Finally, he explains on the discernment of the Spirit where we need to talk constantly with God and how we “can better accomplish the mission entrusted to us at our baptism,” (#174). The Holy Father concludes that when we are in distress or anxiety we should turn to Our Heavenly Mother Mary and whisper time and time again by praying the HAIL MARY.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy