Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Solemnity of All Saints: Heroes
Last month the Tampa Bay Lightning returned home with the Stanley Cup. They were met with a boat parade and then a celebration at Raymond James Stadium. People did their best to keep social distancing, but it was difficult with so many present who wanted to celebrate our area’s new heros: Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevsky, Nikita Kukcherov, Brayden Pointe and all the others.
Now I love sports. I like hockey and baseball, and especially pro football. However, I really do not think that hockey players or any athletes are heroes. What they do on the ice, or the field has little to do with whom they are. A hero is someone with the courage to be not just the best hockey player or football player, but the best person he or she can be. A person can be a good athlete, or politician, but not be a very good person. Hero status belongs to those who are the best they can be in every aspect of their lives.
The saints are really heroes. They completed their lives united to God, truly being all that God created them to be. They live on now united to the Lord in heaven, praying for us here on earth, and guiding us to be the heroes that God calls us to be.
Let’s glance at some of the heroes we find in the Bible. There are heroes in the first part of the Bible, the Old Testament. For example, Abraham and Samson and David and Deborah and Ruth were all heroes because they allowed God's plan to work through them. They had the courage to stand by God's plan and to bring that plan to completion.
The Old Testament prepares us to experience the greatest of all heroes, Jesus Christ. I bet you never consider that. Jesus Christ is a hero, the greatest of all heroes. He gave himself completely to the will of God the Father, even though this meant being crucified for that part of creation that could have chosen God but who rejected him, mankind. Jesus Christ has restored God's reign among his people. He is the ultimate hero. He transformed the world with the Love of God. The New Testament also presents Jesus’ mother, Mary, as the greatest women who ever lived. She was open to God’s will no matter how much she suffered because of it. We also learn about Joseph, the Lord’s foster father, who sacrificed everything for this child and the child’s mother.
Jesus calls us to be heroes. On the Mountain of the Beatitudes, today's Gospel, he calls us away from being self-centered to being God centered. He calls us to be poor in Spirit. Whether we are rich or poor or somewhere in between, the center of our lives must be God, not money. He tells us that we cannot close our eyes to the atrocities of the world. "Blessed are those who mourn." The Lord wept over Jerusalem because it refused to recognize the presence of God in its mist. We weep over our society that allows children to be exploited by drugs, sex and crass commercialism. We mourn over a society that allows a million and a half abortions a year. We mourn over a society that takes children away from their parents and holds them in cages. The meek who inherit the earth are those who are not going to allow hatred to dominate their lives. They will fight for what is right, but they will be merciful, they will be sincere, they will be peacemakers for the sake of the Lord. Finally the beatitudes speak about those who are willing to suffer the mockery of the world, those who would rather be in the minority who choose God than be in the majority of those who go along with the pagan materialism of society.
The saints, whom we honor today, give us an example of people emptying themselves to allow God's plan to work in them, people who have the courage to be genuine heroes. They are not plaster or plastic statues of unreal people in pietistic poses. They are real people from every walk of life who met the challenge of Christianity and conquered. They are priests and nuns, like Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Sienna, married people and single people, like Thomas More and Rose of Lima, very old and very young, like Theresa of Avila and Theresa of Liseaux, They are the wealthy, like Thomas Beckett, the middle class, like Ignatius Loyola, and poor like Peter Claver. They were geniuses, like Thomas Aquinas, and people of simple intelligence but vast wisdom, like John Vianney. All of these and all whom I could not possibly name accepted the challenge of Christianity and had the courage to wash their baptismal robes in the Blood of the Lamb, as Revelation says. They had the courage to live the sacrifice of Christ in their lives. They had the courage to make the love of God real in the world.
The Book of Revelations also notes that there is a throng of people before the throne of the lamb, people from every race and nation, a number too numerous for anyone to count. These are those who have gone before us, who live now and who will live in the future who are willing to sacrifice everything for the Kingdom of God. These are the true heroes following the greatest of all heroes, Jesus Christ.
Am I among that number? Are you? Do we have the courage to proclaim God’s love with our lives? Well, that is why we pray today on the Solemnity of All Saints. We pray for the courage to follow the Lord. We pray for the courage to put God first in our lives. May the Lord help us to stand for him and with him.
Today we pray for the courage to be genuine heroes.