"Walk in the presence of God without reproach." That’s how Pope Francis says we can journey towards holiness. During the homily at Mass at Santa Marta on Tuesday, the pope said that for this commitment to succeed, Christians must be able to hope with courage, open themselves up to discussion and freely welcome God's grace.
Holiness cannot be bought. Neither can it be earned by human strength. No, "the simple holiness of all Christians," "ours—the kind we are called to every day," says the pope , can only be attained with the help of four essential elements: courage, hope, grace and conversion.
Taking the liturgical excerpt from the First Letter of St. Peter, which he called a "small treatise on holiness," Pope Francis said holiness means “to walk in the presence of God without reproach."
"Holiness is a journey; holiness cannot be bought. It can’t be sold. It cannot be given away. Holiness is a journey to God's presence that I must make: no one else can do it in my name. I can pray for someone to be holy, but he’s the one who has to work towards [holiness], not me. Walk in God's presence, in an impeccable way.”
Everyday holiness, the pope continued, can also be “anonymous.” And the first element needed to achieve it is courage: “The path to holiness takes courage."
"Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven," the pope stressed, is for "those who have the courage to go forward" and courage, he observed, is generated by "hope," the second element of the journey that leads to holiness. The kind of courage that hopes "in an encounter with Jesus."
The third element of this journey towards holiness, the pope observed, appears in Peter’s words: "Put all your hope in that grace:”
"We cannot achieve holiness on our own,” affirmed Pope Francis. “No, it is a grace. Being good, being saintly, going every day a little 'a step forward in the Christian life is a grace of God and we have to ask for it. Courage, a journey. A journey one must take with courage, with hope and with the willingness to receive this grace. And hope: the hope of the journey.
Here, the pope urged the faithful to read the “beautiful” ninth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews, which recounts the journey of “our forefathers, the first to be called by God.” “Of our father Abraham, it said: 'But, he went out without knowing where he was going.' But with hope."
In Peter’s letter, the pope continued, we also see the importance of a fourth element: conversion as a continuous effort towards cleansing the heart.
"Conversion, every day,” recalled Pope Francis, does not mean one must beat oneself as penance for committing a wrong: “No, no, no: small conversions... if you're able to not speak ill of another, you're on the right path to becoming saintly. It’s so easy! I know that you never speak ill of others, no? Little things ... 'I want to criticize a neighbor, a coworker: bite your tongue a bit. The tongue will swell a bit, but your spirit will be holier on this journey. Nothing grand. Mortification? No, it's simple. The path to holiness is simple. Do not go back, but always moving forward, right? And with fortitude."