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Bible Reflections View Comments

Ordinary Saints
By Kathleen M. Carroll
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 15, 2012
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It’s difficult to imagine the courage of those twelve men who left everything they knew, their families, homes and jobs—often at a moment’s notice—to follow Jesus. How much more courage must they have had, though, to leave him. Today’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus sending his disciples out into the world, to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, to expel demons. He doesn’t send them to his friends and relatives with letters of introduction. He doesn’t map out an itinerary for them, with comfortable lodging and good food. He doesn’t supply them with a suitcase of clothes or even an overnight bag. And he tells them to bring no money. Not a coin. Our reading skips over just how the apostles might have felt about all this. No mention of a vote on the issue. Not a lot of “what-ifs” or “yes-buts.” They just went.

We’ve all heard the slogan WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? And it can be an enjoyable mental exercise to think about how Jesus would handle our nosy neighbor, our thoughtless spouse, or our ill-mannered cat. But then we think, “Yes, but that was Jesus. What would a normal person do?” We should recall, though, that none of the apostles were chosen because of their stellar resumes. A few fishermen, a tax collector, a notorious doubter and some guy he found under a fig tree—these were Jesus’s choices. None of them were saintly when Jesus found them, some had great difficulty grappling with their faith (Peter, most notably), and one never got it right at all. They were all just ordinary men.

Consider, too, that the Israelites didn’t take a vote on who would be their next prophet, and there was not a long line of applicants for the job. One has only to recall the           enthusiasm of Jonah, who promptly took passage on a ship heading westward—in the
opposite direction from the city to which he was sent. Our First Reading brings home this point through the testimony of the prophet Amos. “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people.”

An old saying has it, “God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” It is easy to understand how that dynamic might work in the life of St. Peter or Mother Teresa, but we still like to imagine ourselves exempt. We are, after all, just ordinary people.

In An Easy Way to Become a Saint, Paul O’Sullivan relates the story of Anthony the Abbot who, in answer to his prayer to learn humility, was instructed to visit two women in a
nearby town. Anthony asked about their spiritual practices; he was certain that they must have some particular devotion or a special way of fasting that was so pleasing to God. His questions and observations yielded nothing unusual, though. His conclusion was that “they performed their duties well and they loved God.”

Christ’s followers became saints in exactly the same way. They did what they were supposed to do as well as they could, and they did it for the love of God. An easy way to become a saint, indeed.


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All Saints: The earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of "all the martyrs." In the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface IV gathered up some 28 wagonloads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods. The pope rededicated the shrine as a Christian church. According to Venerable Bede, the pope intended "that the memory of all the saints might in the future be honored in the place which had formerly been dedicated to the worship not of gods but of demons" (<i>On the Calculation of Time</i>). 
<p>But the rededication of the Pantheon, like the earlier commemoration of all the martyrs, occurred in May. Many Eastern Churches still honor all the saints in the spring, either during the Easter season or immediately after Pentecost. </p><p>How the Western Church came to celebrate this feast, now recognized as a solemnity, in November is a puzzle to historians. The Anglo-Saxon theologian Alcuin observed the feast on November 1 in 800, as did his friend Arno, Bishop of Salzburg. Rome finally adopted that date in the ninth century.</p> American Catholic Blog Touch can be an act of kindness when someone is dying. If you visit a sick person and find that you are at a loss for words, reach out and touch her hand.

 
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