I was in a school that required all students to take speech. One important moment in the class was when the students delivered their “hero” speech. While there were speeches that focused on what might be expected, there were a few speeches each year that identified heroes that might not have appeared likely when the topic of hero was considered.
When this time of year rolled around, usually early in the semester if I remember correctly, it got me thinking about baptism and confirmation sponsors, which I tried to present in programs as “heroes in the faith.” My point was to help people to think about those persons who had made a big difference in their lives of faith with God. I’d also ask my students to write about this same idea. I invited them to consider people they believed lived an authentic life of faith they could be considered a hero because of their faith in God. Often what they wrote was inspiring.
I thought of this as I read the first reading today. In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul is reassured by the accounts of faith he is hearing about them. While they may not yet be “heroes” in the faith, their lived witness reassures Paul that the constant presence of Jesus is active and alive in the church there. It causes him to be filled with gratitude for what God is doing in their lives.
This awareness leads Paul to invite the Thessalonians to deeper love, for one another, and for God. It was this same awareness that led Saint Monica to pray again and again for her son Saint Augustine. Any good mother, it seems to me, is always concerned for her children. Any good mother of faith, becomes most concerned about the quality and depth of their relationship with God.
What all this means is that the invitation of the gospel must be considered seriously. We are called to be on the watch for God’s presence, which is constantly around us. Yet we do not always see it. How is it that someone is “on the watch?”
In the hustle and bustle that can be all to pervasive today, perhaps more than ever we are called to the type of internal accountability that means we reflect our current priorities with those that God holds out to each of us. There are so many things that can be distracting us from the things that are most important. We can be too overcome by the demands of our work, or the lure of the internet, or pornography, or the running from silence that is really a running from ourselves and God.
What we need to do is be on the watch for the ways in which God longs for us to discover the really important things in life, those things which lead to fulfillment. Too often the things that occupy our time are not fulfilling. Work may help us to see what we can accomplish, but when it gets out of whack, we forget the importance of the people we love. The Internet can be tremendously helpful, but it can also lead to attempts to fill emptiness that it cannot fill. Pornography is no substitute for love. Games are no substitute for social relationship. Status updates on Facebook are no substitute for authentic friendships built in “real time”.
In the gospel, it is the servant who feeds the people that is most rewarded. Consider what food we can give if our lives are spent seeing what God has given us, and being able to share the good food that God makes available to all in the form of a deep relationship with others.