1 Nov 2016
Solemnity of All Saints
Most of us have “heroes” or people we look up to and admire. Maybe you wish you could play basketball like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. Maybe you like the way Aaron Rodgers leads the offense on the field. Or maybe you really like music, and so you marvel at works by Mozart or Bach or Beethoven. Maybe the people you admire are simply people in your everyday life who you want to be like: an older brother or sister, a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, or a coach.
And, as Catholics, we also have all the saints. We know a lot of the “big” ones: Saint Francis; St. Clare; St. Nicholas; Sts. Peter and Paul, Andrew and all the Apostles; St. Patrick and, of course, St. Mary and St. Joseph. There’s a bunch we don’t hear a lot about, too: St. Hallvard, St. Kalufa, St. Pancras, St. Ephrem and countless others. And there are the angels, too: St. Michael, St. Rafael, St. Gabriel.
You know, the “connection” between our “heroes,” or people we admire, and the saints is that they usually seem to be a little “bigger than life.” It’s like they live in a world that’s a little different from ours. And that’s right . . . they do. And they inspire us to come into their world. Whether we’re talking about a sports hero, or a musical giant, or one of the saints, or someone in our everyday life, they inspire us to be like them—to enter their world.
Saint John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. [But] we do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him.” God is our ultimate “hero,” our ultimate all-star, our ultimate friend and coach; he is the ultimate saint. And he’s constantly saying to us, “Come into my world,” which is another way of saying, “Come, follow my example and be like me. Let me be your hero.”
And the “world” God inspires us to enter is the world of heaven. That’s the focus of the Book of Revelation. It’s the book of the Revelation of Heaven. And it sounds like a pretty interesting “place.” St. John talks about angels and the throne of God. There’s the holy city with living water flowing through it, and the “vision of a great multitude, which no one could count.” And that “great multitude” we recognize as all the saints. And, together, with God and all the angels, they make up that life of perfect love and happiness and friendship we call “heaven.”
That’s where we want to be. We want to be “like those” heroes and saints who are living in another world; a world where there is no sickness, no pain, no sadness, no arguments, no fear; a world where there is perfect friendship, perfect love, music and joy . . . maybe heaven even has its own football team that plays like nothing we’ve seen on this earth.
That’s where we want to be: in heaven, with our heroes, with all the saints, with our God—living the kind of life they live. And that sounds great—and it is. But it takes work to get there; it’s not impossible, but it does take work.
Just think about all the hours and days, and months and years, those sports heroes have to put in to get as good as they are. Think about all the injuries, all the trials, all the frustrations they have to go through to get where they are. And what about musicians or artists—think about the years of practicing, over and over again, practicing to get it right; making mistakes, learning from them, and pushing forward to be better. And we can say the same about our hero parents and coaches; they weren’t born being all-stars—they had to work and make mistakes, and sacrifice and suffer to be the kind of people we look up to.
Jesus says today: Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are they who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the clean of heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.” That’s kind of a quick summary of all the work the saints do to be the kind of people we look up to.
If we want to be like our heroes, if we want to be like the saints, if we want to be like those people we admire (especially God), then it will take some hard work. And the hardest work is simply to remain faithful to the vision of where we’re going; to remain faithful to that other world we want to enter—the world of our heroes and saints and mentors. And it’s hard work because there are so many distractions, so many reasons for us to lose hope.
For instance, maybe the person you thought was a hero turned out to be somebody you shouldn’t admire at all. Or maybe it feels like God lets you down, and you wonder how trustworthy he is. Maybe somebody gets sick, or a tragedy happens, and you wonder if there really is heaven. There are a lot of distractions, and so many reasons for us to lose hope.
But that’s where the hard work of being a saint comes in: even when it’s hard, we still believe. Even if it seems foolish to other people, we still believe. In fact, that could be the motto of all the saints (and us, too): We believe. We believe. It’s hard work to believe, but we do. We believe. That’s what gets us into the world of our heroes, our saints. We believe, and we do it because they believe—and we want to be like them, don’t we?