“THEY SET FORTH no decisions or judgments, nor are they found among the rulers” (Sirach 38:33).
Snow shovelers, flight attendants, phlebotomists, kindergarten aides, car mechanics, postal workers, gardeners, cooks, farmers, computer technicians, produce managers, librarians, garbage collectors: They make a lovely litany for the Feast of All Saints!
Sometimes when I get depressed about the folks at the top—the greed-driven executives, the hypocritical leaders, the unethical actions of the supposedly “best and brightest”—I like to think of Tim.
Tim’s job wasn’t prestigious. He worked as an aide at a retirement center where my 84-year-old friend Cathey lives. Sometimes I pick her up for a lecture or a concert, because she craves stimulation and loves to get out.
One cold morning when I arrived, Tim greeted me at the door. “Cathey’s got only a light jacket. Do you think she’ll be warm enough?” he asked with concern. “She’s so excited about going. I styled her hair!”
Cathey emerged several minutes later, glowing. I complimented her on her hairstyle while Tim retrieved a heavier coat. As he waved us off, I thought no parent had sent a child to prom with more tenderness or pride.
Do we think of Tim as a saint? Probably not. Aren’t saints the folks with lush capes and sculpted halos, glowing through stained glass? Even in martyrdom, their hair is perfectly blow-dried, not one brocade thread of one sleeve askew. They are never overweight, late, anxious or irritable. But such an image does a great disservice to reality. When we put the saints on a pedestal too distant, we’re off the hook. If they were perfect, we don’t need to imitate them!
The reading for the Feast of All Saints, the Beatitudes, certainly contradicts the idea of distance. In Luke’s version (6:17-23), Jesus stands “on a stretch of level ground” in a posture of equality with people who were probably sweaty, disease
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