Our Gospel passage today is an extract from what is called “Jesus’ Priestly Prayer”, during which he speaks directly to the Father on behalf of his disciples, who are present with him at the Last Supper.
Jesus is about to leave them, and knows that they are not in a fit condition, so will need the Father’s help in the face of what is to happen in the future. Jesus sums up his care for the disciples, acknowledging that one has been lost, but through that one’s deliberate choice. Jesus asks the Father to make the disciples “holy”, that is, that they identify themselves with God’s purpose, just as Jesus did. His final act of holiness will be to give himself completely to God’s will, and in this will reveal to them the love of the Father. Holiness is rooted in the unity of the disciples with the Father, and it is on the basis of this that Jesus is sending them out to continue his work of revealing God to human beings.
The text of our Gospel reading presents Jesus as praying, “Consecrate them in the truth”. The underlying meaning is “to make holy”. This notion can be confusing for some people, as it conjures up images of individuals whose lives are totally dedicated to praying and serving others, perhaps wearing distinctive clothing or emblems of one sort or another: they are different from normal or ordinary folk.
The Second Vatican Council, in its document on the Church, rejects the idea that holiness is something reserved for special individuals, but is the calling of all baptised disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus is the fundamental vocation of all Christians: how each one lives this out will depend on their circumstances; most are called to marriage and family life, others to a different path, but no one way of living out our baptismal commitment is better or higher than any other. Everyone is called to live as best they can by the teachings of Jesus, and, in that, each person can be said to be holy, to be committed to the Gospel values.
One religious sister, when she read the chapter entitled “The Universal Call To Holiness” in the document on the Church, said to herself that the bishops at the Council had just written the death sentence for religious life: no longer would people feel that they necessarily had to become a priest, a nun or religious sister, or a member of a teaching order of brothers to be someone totally committed to the Christian life. There would be no spiritual advantage in entering the convent or monastery. Her insight may go a long way to explaining the present dearth of what we traditionally called vocations: it is, perhaps, not due to a lack of generosity or the refusal of young people to answer the call, just that the Holy Spirit is calling us all in a different way. The “typical” Christian is sitting in the pew
- The official teaching of the Church is that all Christians are called to be holy
- Holiness consists in our being committed to living out our baptismal promises as best we can in our daily lives
No state of life in the Church is necessarily holier, better, or higher than any other; each is appropriate to the person concerned.
As you go about your daily routine, remember that holiness is found in the little, everyday things of life.