In Line with our Resolution 4 “ Let us Educate to Respond to the call to Holiness” Catholic women in Malawi throughout its 8 dioceses, put in place deliberate efforts to organize retreats and workshops so that Priests and other facilitators can guide, accompany and teach us on our journey to holiness.
On this journey to holiness our motto is drawn from 1 Peter 1:16 “ Be holy, because I am Holy’ and our role model is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The teaching of the Church is very clear on our calling to holiness. This is taken from Matthew 5:48 “ Be perfect , therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
What does it mean to be holy? Being holy means embracing Jesus Christ in our day to day living, our life should be centered on Jesus’ teaching, and to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
St Paul in his letter to Galatians chapter 5: 16-27 tells us very clearly that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to live in our hearts. He wants to speak to us through the Scriptures.
The Holy Spirit gives the following gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel , Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and fear of the LORD. These gifts from the Holy spirit will enable us to have the following attributes: Hospitality, Teaching, Serving, Leadership, and Giving. Evangelism, Encouragement, Administration, Mercy and Faith. Already if one has attained above gifts, that person is already living a holy life.
The most important step is to live holy life by being guided by the Holy Scriptures – Matthew 5:43 -48
“You have heard that it was said love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even that tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
1. We need to fight the desires of our bodies – 2 Corinthians Chapter 7 Vs 1
“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from anything that contaminates body and spirit.”
2. We are holy because of his un ending mercy and love – 2 Timothy 1 Vs 9
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time – to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”
3. To have a heart that is free and ready to turn to God by repenting our sins – Psalms 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.
4. Trying our best to imitate Christ and be like him in our ways of doing things – Philippians 2 Vs 5 - “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
5. To Be cautious of what comes out of our mouths – Ephesians 5 v 3 – “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for Gods holy people
6. Deepening our Prayer Life – Psalms 103 Vs 1 – “Bless the LORD, O my soul; all that is within me, bless his holy name!’
7. To be Famous in the Good things and Bad things – Amos 5 Vs 14 – Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you.
8. Respecting our Bodies as temple of God – 1 Corinthians 3 Vs 16 – “Don’t you know that you yourselves are Gods temple and that Gods Spirit dwells in your midst?”
9. Endure hardships with faith as a way of being holy – Hebrews 12 : 7 to 11 – Endure hardships as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined and everyone undergoes discipline- then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had a human Fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live. They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God discipline us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No Discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
10. Avoid being confident that you are holier than thou - Luke 18 vs 9 to 14 – “He also spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised other. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men- extortions, unjust, adulterer, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the tax collector, standing afar off , would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘ God, be merciful to me a sinner!. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
11. Do not conform to the pattern of this world – Romans 12 Vs 2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
12. We should be guided with a life full of love - Colossians 3: 5 – 14 - “Put to death , therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices. And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
13. We also draw strength from the teachings of our Holy Pope Francis from his Apostolic Exhortation - Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be Glad) The Pope explains that we are all called to Holiness irrespective of who we are. He further says that we are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those with consecrated life. He calls us to be holy by living out our commitment with Joy.
In conclusion, our calling to holiness is a journey of our daily life on earth and it’s a journey for everybody. We should do away with fear and laziness which prevents us to attain holiness.
Mary Mother of God and our Mother accompany us on our journey to holiness.
Some of the women who attended the retreat in Mangochi, at DMI University in December 2019
Catholic Women’s Organisation Malawi