Saints among us: Building on the Gifts of God for the Common Good of All
November begins with the Feast of All Saints. I have long seen this feast day as consoling and supportive. Saints so often seem to be larger than life. Sometimes they are the “plaster saint”, a model that really does not relate to our human experience. At other times, they seem to represent a spiritual experience that takes them out of this world and far from our experience. Such models appear removed from the call to evangelize or share the Good News with the world given us as Jesus’s disciples.
The story of Christianity over the centuries has exhibited the same tendency to distance ourselves from the broader world in which it has lived. In his most recent encyclical, Fratelli tutti (Oct 2020). Pope Francis has pushed our church into recognizing our call into the world of our experience. It is there that we discover our relationships are touched in their humanness by the loving hand of God. Disciples are called to pass this message on and to there build God’s loving reign.
Several weeks ago, Fr. Richard Rohr in his daily reflection remarked on how Christianity has tended to focus inward over the centuries. “Christianity, in its first two thousand years, has kept its morality mostly private, interior, and heaven-bound, but with very few direct implications for what is now called our collective economic, social and political life.” (Rohr 1 Nov 2020) By doing so, we lose something of the Incarnation, our faith in God’s love living among us, revealed in the person of Jesus. In him, the divine and the human come together. This is the Good News calling us to build God’s reign.
Rohr turns to the words of a Benedictine sister, Joan Chittister to direct our call as disciples of Jesus beyond ourselves to social justice and the common good for all peoples of the earth. Chittister observes: “Everywhere there are people who, despite finding themselves mired in periods of national [disruption] or personal marginalization refuse to give up the thought of a better future or give in to the allurements of a deteriorating present. They never lose hope that the values they learned in the best of times or the courage it takes to reclaim their world from the worst of times are worth the commitment of their lives. These people, the best of ourselves, are legion and they are everywhere.” (Rohr, 2 Nov 2020) Like the servant in Matthew’s Gospel, they use the gifts they receive well. (Matt 25:14-30)
These are our prophets, our saints among us. In 2014, the world two young prophets/saints received the Nobel Peace Prize. Each of them gave up a great deal and have showed remarkable courage in speaking and working for the common good of us all.
Malala Yousfzai is a young Pakistani Muslim teenager who has actively been speaking out for the rights of girls in Pakistan to have an education. Her voice and her courage resulted in her being shot and seriously wounded by the Taliban. She continues to be a voice for this common good and right.
Kailash Satyarthi is an Indian electrical engineer who at age 26 gave up his career and has been working to promote and provide education possibilities for the children of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged in northern India. Kailash is a Hindu.
These are only two such saints for our time. As Chittister pointed out, such prophetic figures are everywhere, even standing among us and urging us to live our discipleship with an outward vision that changes our world. Our call is to share our gifts, courage and energy for others, building God’s reign.