A person who is annoyed by other people’s sins can only perceive the failing because s/he recognizes those same faults within her/himself. For example, if I say I hate when people tell lies to me when I prefer hearing the truth, what this really means is that I recognize within myself my own capacity for being dishonest. This is an obvious truth and is easily acknowledged by reasonable people when the subject is perceiving others’ faults. What is often overlooked, however, is our own capacity for greatness and heroism. Whenever we witness a woman or a man with outstanding courage, and are moved by that person’s actions, this really means that their greatness is resonating with our own innate greatness. If we didn’t have firsthand experiential knowledge of heroism, how would we ever recognize it as such?
From the myths of the ancient Greeks and Romans to the biblical stories, to modern day movies, we see that humans have a need to find examples heroism and courage within our species The saints are heros in our Catholic Tradition, and we honor them because they were able to distinguish themselves from others and from ourselves. They listened to the voice of God more intently, they enlarged their vision to become part of God’s larger vision, and they found within themselves the capacity for greatness in their ability to manifest that vision. No one lives his or her life in a vacuum, however, and we accomplish nothing on our own. Because we share the same innate abilities and potential for greatness as the saint-heroes, our achievements combine with theirs.
How do we ourselves rise to the occasion and become heroic? First, we acknowledge our ability to see God’s vision as they saw it, to listen as attentively as they did to the voice of God, and to encourage and support others striving for the same goals in bringing about the Reign of God. Without our continuing efforts to recognize heroic efforts and great compassion and moving to expand God’s vision for humanity, not even the teachings of Christ would ever have seen the light of day: the Gospel would have been nothing more than a comforting idea far removed from reality. When we ourselves witness heroism, two things happen. First, we experience the deep emotional response to it, and then we connect that example to dormant greatness within ourselves. Something in our soul is stirred, awakening our consciousness to the realization that everything we are experiencing outside of ourselves is also responding to what we possess within ourselves. We nourish our own greatness and sanctity (to use an old word) when we respond to someone else’s greatness and holiness.
Ultimately, being a saint-hero is nothing more than being the best of what it means to be fully human. When we witness this in others, we recognize it immediately. When we decide to trust its presence within ourselves, we open ourselves to the possibility of engendering it in our lives. We may feel inspired to dedicate ourselves to someone else’s vision of God’s Reign, or we may be inspired to forge our own path into the future. Regardless, we should never lose sight of the fact that the heroism we see in others also belongs to us. As the saints inspire us, so our actions have the potential to inspire others, and the great chain reaction of creating God’s Reign continues to expand and unfold endlessly into the future, well beyond time and space, and rendering saint-heroes more necessary than ever.
May the vision of the saints in glory be yours this week! See you at Mass on the Feast of All Saints this Friday at 6:30 pm.