TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Call to holiness

The readings from this weekend, the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time invite us to be holy.

From the book of Leviticus (19:1-2, 17-18) the Lord asks Moses to speak to the whole community saying. “Be holy, for I, the Lord our God, am holy.” The second reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians (3:16-23) begins with the following words:

Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you….. the temple of God is sacred and you are that temple.

We are continually called to holiness and we hear this call with God’s grace. On Saturday, many gathered at the Cathedral to witness the ordination of Graham Fullick. As a more mature man, he became increasingly aware of God’s call to him to the ordained priesthood and he responded to that call, went off to study in Rome, returned throughout those studies for pastoral placement experiences, and now will minister among us as Fr Graham Fullick.

The following promises were exchanged between Graham and Bishop Bill:

Bishop Bill: Dear son, before you enter the Order of the Priesthood, you must declare before the people you intention to undertake this office.

Do you resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office Priesthood in the presbyteral rank, as a worthy fellow worker with the Order of Bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock?

Deacon Graham:        I do

Bishop Bill: Do you resolve to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith?

Deacon Graham: I do

Bishop Bill: Do you resolve to celebrate faithfully and reverently, in accord with the Church’s tradition, the mysteries of Christ, especially the Sacrifice of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people?

Deacon Graham: I do

Bishop Bill: Do you resolve to implore with us God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to your care by observing the command to pray without ceasing?

Deacon Graham: I do

Bishop Bill: Do you resolve to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered himself for us to the Father as a pure Sacrifice, and with him to consecrate yourself to God for the salvation of all?

Deacon Graham: I do, with the help of God.

Graham then moved forward and knelt before Bishop Bill, placing his joined hands between those of Bishop Bill.

Bishop Bill: Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?

Deacon Graham: I do

Bishop Bill: May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.

Immediately after this, we each prayed the Litany of Supplication over Graham as he lay prostrate on the floor before the altar. I always find this part very moving. You can feel God’s spirit present through the prayers of the people. This is a special moment.

There were many powerful moments during this Order of Service for the Presbyteral Ordination of Graham Fullick, but this is the one I am choosing to share with you, inviting you to consider your own vocation and promises you have made before God. You may have made those promises formally but I believe that many of us make some of our promises to God in the private recesses of our souls, and yet I believe they are still binding. I have no doubt that we are meant to honour these promises, as through them we continue to be called to holiness.

In the ordained state, through that laying on of hands and the anointing with sacred Chrism, priests are charged to preach the Gospel, offer pastoral care and celebrate divine worship, modelling their lives on the Good Shepherd. I think we are called to support them to honour their call and commitment. I recognise that this can be mutually challenging.

These thoughts and experience reminded me of Pope Francis’ exhortation on the call to holiness Gaudete et exsultate (2018)

All people, including the laity, are called to holiness

To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.

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 labouring 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.(GE 14)

Christ is the center of any Christian life

That mission has its fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him. At its core, holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life. It consists in uniting ourselves to the Lord’s death and resurrection in a unique and personal way, constantly dying and rising anew with him. (GE 20)

Holiness leads to joy

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. To depend on God sets us free from every form of enslavement and leads us to recognize our great dignity. (GE 32)

Of course you may like to read or re-read this beautiful exhortation which has a beautiful section on the beatitudes. For those of you who are attending Mass each weekend, our readings have been exploring the Sermon on the Mount, the place where Jesus preached these beatitudes as a way of living.

We are about to enter into the Season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday tomorrow. I hope the words of this week’s message inspire you to contemplate how you and we are being called to be holy. It is tempting to become despondent given the situation our church is facing and yet the gift is to be dependent on our good and gracious God.

May your Lent bring you and us in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle many great graces.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.