We actually have a large list of canonized saints, and most of them are well known to have done amazing things. And they go ahead to do so: finding things for us, helping to heal our illnesses, and obtaining favors. They are partners who pray with us and for us.
For such intercession support, we might also count on deceased family and friends whose holiness and love helped us on our journey through life while they were alive.
Between them and us there is the not-so-important event called death. Those of us who have experienced the death of someone we love know how hard it is to let go. And if we have been with the person at the moment of death — even though we believe in faith that he or she has gone to a better place — the memory of the experience can stay for years.
In as much as death is an everyday occurrence, the Church this month places life and death before our eyes in a special way — in the feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of the Holy Souls. These days are a sober reminder that “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14). And yet, for those who believe, death is not the end; it is a transition, the gate through which we must pass to eternal life.
Once death comes, even following a long period of suffering, its arrival is swift and leaves a feeling of deep emptiness for those who remain. It is definitely uncomfortable to face death, to cogitate about it, to discuss about it. And yet the problems for us all is to confront death in faith as an integral part of our human condition.
My friends, we believe that God has prepared great things for those who struggle to love him. One of my favorite little bits of the Bible, from 1 Corinthians, is this saying:
What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him (2:9).
To put it simply, God wants us to be saints. Saints! In Greek, the term is ἅγιοι (hagioi) and in Latin, sancti — literally, “the holy ones.” Our life’s goal is to be with the saints and be one of them in the unspeakable happiness of heaven.
You might have observed that Pope Francis, when he’s interacting with young people, often taps them on the face with his hand. It reminds us how, in days gone by, in conferring the sacrament of Confirmation, the bishop would give the one being confirmed a gentle slap on the cheek. This 13th-century ritual, which is no longer practiced, was meant to be a reminder that the struggle now begins in earnest.
Our lives (and I know I don’t need to tell you) are often a struggle, even a battle. We wage war with sickness and disappointment, with broken relationships, and certainly with personal sin. This is our exciting human and Christian struggle. This is the path of holiness.
Our goal in this life must be to become all that we were created to be so we can join the women and men, boys and girls, who right now see the glory of God. Like them, we are called to do amazing things in our lives. To be a superhero? Well, simply to respond to all our daily challenges and struggles in the way the Gospel calls us to do can be considered amazing, even heroic. With courage today and always, permit God to assist you to become all that he created you to be. Keep up the struggle. If you’re down, get up!
Be glad and proud to follow Jesus Christ, for your reward will be great … in heaven!