Shepherd's Voice April 2019

OUR CALL TO HOLINESS

Holiness of life is central to our baptismal calling as disciples of Christ. In all his letters St. Paul constantly reminds us of our new life in Christ realized in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

At our recent meeting of the Regional Catholic Council of the North held at Navinta, New Delhi (March 9-10), we had the privilege of being addressed by Mr. Cyril John, as the main resource person, on the topic “Our Call to Holiness”. [Mr. Cyril John is the founder and current Chairman of the Delhi Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, member of the international pontifical organization CHARIS and a world-renowned leader of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement rendering his invaluable services at the diocesan, national and international levels].

What follows here is the abridged version of the reflections shared with the RCCN by Mr. Cyril John.

In the Introduction to the Apostolic Exhortation GaudeteetExsultate, Pope Francis says: “He (God) wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in God’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1). God spoke to Moses, saying, “’Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy’” (Lv. 19:2).

St. Paul insists on our sanctification: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thess. 4:3); “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4).

Nevertheless, Pope Francis equally emphasizes that the Church, though she is holy, yet is made up of sinners.

Of all the themes that emerge from the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the concept of the universal call to holiness is perhaps one of the most noteworthy. The Council teaches that “all the faithful, whatever their condition or state – though each in his own way – are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect” (LG 11). Therefore, all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love. Although the forms and tasks of life are many, holiness is one.

A Saint is not someone who has not sinned, but someone who has been forgiven by God. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness…. It is not the fact that we have never erred, but it is our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints. And we can all learn this way of holiness.” Archbishop Fulton J Sheen has said, “A saint is a recovering sinner.” When we stumble and fall, we are called to get up, dust ourselves off, and continue to embark upon our lifelong pilgrimage to perfection.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’.” (1 Pet 1:13-16).

In order to become holy, we need to root out the “Cardinal Sins”, the tendencies in us which are very destructive, as other sins are born out of them. They are also called the “Seven Deadly Sins” or “Capital Sins” because they engender other sins. These are stepping stones to greater sins. If these sins could be kept under control, then other sins will be easier to avoid or resist. The following are the seven Cardinal Sins according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1. Pride: It is inordinate love of one’s own excellence, either of body or mind or the unlawful pleasure we derive from thinking we have no superiors. It could be on account of wealth, beauty, caliber, family, position, education, etc. Pride is a serious block to spiritual life. Many are led to destruction on account of pride. “The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord” (Sir 3:18). Jesus tells us, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29). Spiritual pride among those involved in ministry and leadership is a cause of serious concern. It leads to arrogance and lack of submission. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are following a master who is gentle and humble of heart. Constant effort should be made to eradicate the tendencies of pride that might creep into us from time to time – and God’s grace is never lacking.

2. Greed: Material things are lawful and necessary because they enable us to live according to our situation in life, to mitigate suffering, to advance the Kingdom of God, and to save our souls. It is the pursuit of wealth as an end instead or as a means to the above ends, which makes a man covetous. Greed can be for name, money, position, fame, possessions. It is a disordered desire for worldly goods and attendant power. The Tenth Commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit.

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jas 4:1-3). In the parable of the “Rich Fool”, the Lord warns us: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in abundance of possessions” (Lk 12:15).

3. Anger: It means excessive feeling or expression of displeasure, or desire for revenge. Anger is the biggest block to spiritual life. It is one of the works of the flesh mentioned in Gal. 5:19-21. Accordingly, if we cherish anger, we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:19-20). Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother (or sister) will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Mt 5:22).

“Be angry but do not sin” (Eph 4:26). It is not wrong to be angry in front of a wrongdoing. Anger is not sin under three conditions: (1) If the cause of the anger be just, for example, defence of God’s honour; (2) If it be no greater than the cause demands, that is, if it be kept under control; and (3) If it be quickly subdued: “Let not the sun go down upon your anger” (Eph 4:26).“One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32).

4. Jealousy/Envy: Envy refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s good and the immoderate desire to acquire it for oneself, even unjustly. It also makes the person forget to thank God for the many gifts he or she has received. St. Gregory the Great said, “from envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbour, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.” When we wish grave harm to a neighbour it is a mortal sin. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (Jas 3:16). Envy will not make us any richer, more popular or more satisfied. According to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “What rust is to iron, what moths are to wool, what termites are to wood, that envy is to the soul: the assassination of brotherly (and sisterly) love.” Envy will turn out to be a serious block in the spiritual growth and ministry of God’s chosen ones. It leads to the decay of the soul. If we sincerely wish to grow in holiness, we need to root out envy. Let us empty ourselves of envy that the Lord may fill us with many more graces and blessings

5. Laziness/Sloth: It is laziness of mind and body. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance and carelessness of heart (cf. CCC 2733). Laziness comes when we do not value or do not use well the time we have. It is physical when it manifests itself in laziness, procrastination, idleness, softness and indifference. It is spiritual when it shows itself in an indifference to character betterment, distaste for the spiritual, a hurried crowding of devotions, and failure to cultivate new virtue. Sloth is a kind of spiritual laziness.“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (Prov. 6:6-7). St Paul tells us: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat…” (2 Thes 3:10-12).

6. Gluttony: It is an inordinate indulgence in eating or drinking and may manifest itself either in taking more than is necessary, or in taking it at the wrong time, or in taking it too luxuriously. It is sinful because reason demands that food and drink be taken for the necessities and conveniences of nature but not for pleasure alone. It is body-centered love. It relates not only to food, but an excess of anything. “Their end is destruction; their god is their belly; and they glory in their shame; with minds set on earthly things” (Phil 3:19).

7. Lust: It is the self-destructive drive for pleasure out of proportion to its worth. It does not include the legitimate sexual pleasures that are permitted in the context of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes (cf. CCC 2351). Husband-wife relationship has to be motivated by love and not lust. Lust is selfishness or perverted love. It looks not so much to the good of the other, as to the pleasure of self. It subordinates the other to self for the sake of pleasure. “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:6-8). Our Lady told Jacinta at Fatima "More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason."

“For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 Jn 2: 16). 1 John 2:16 distinguishes three kinds of covetousness: (1) the desire of the flesh, (2) the desire of the eyes, and (3) the pride in riches. Lust of the eyes is the fastest growing addiction today. Lust of the eyes leads to uncontrolled viewing and reading of things that appease the senses. It is the root cause of several vices leading to the doom of many a soul and is a serious impediment to the spiritual growth of several people. The question is: “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?”(Prov. 6:27).
The Word of God teaches us: “Flee from sin as from a snake; for if you approach sin, it will bite you. Its teeth are lion’s teeth, destroying human souls” (Sir 21:2).
In a story of a poisonous snake asking a boy to carry him up and down a hill on the promise of not biting him, the snake finally bit the boy. When the boy cried out and wailed, “Why did you bite me? I thought you were my friend?” the snake hissed, “I am a snake. A snake is a snake. And the snake bites.”
We need to be on our guard against the “Cardinal Sins” that destroy us spiritually. God’s grace works miracles when we trust in the power of the Cross to heal us and make us whole. Our progress on the path of holiness is a process of INNER HEALING wherein we cry aloud “with his wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5). Trusting in his mercy and love we will realize how one by one the “Cardinal Sins” are overcome.
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Josh 3:5).

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