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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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