9th Sunday in Ordinary Time–Becoming a Saint

Saint Wenceslaus

Jesus makes two points in today’s Gospel.  First He talks about salt.  Salt that’s lost its flavor is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  We know all about that, don’t we?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve trampled on more salt this winter than I ever wanted to.  I’d be more than happy if I never trampled on salt again…..at least for this year.

 

Since we’re all tired of salt let’s look at His second point.  “You are the light of the world.”  Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket. This is one of the many things that Jesus said that have become part of our everyday language.  Even an atheist can understand that you wouldn’t hide a light under a basket.  Light is meant to be seen and to be shared.

 

When I was ordained, each of my kids gave me one of the four volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours, our daily prayer book, and each of them wrote something in their book.  In her volume, my daughter wrote “remember that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” What a profound statement!

 

My former spiritual director, the late Monsignor Edward Eichor used to tell a story about a mass that he attended at the old Arena on Oakland Avenue.  The building was totally dark.  Someone struck one match and lit one candle.  That candle was used to light the candles of the people nearby.  They lit others and soon there were thousands of candles burning brightly, lighting up the whole place.  All that light and the original candle was still burning as brightly as it had to begin with.

 

That’s what Jesus calls us to do with our light.

 

As I’m learning about this beautiful church, I can’t help but be impressed by all the amazing statues depicting saints, especially Bohemian saints, who have lived inspirational lives.  Of course we have our Beloved Savior and His mother and father, Mary and Joseph. We’re all familiar with their lives of virtue and holiness.  Above the altar we have our patron, Saint John of Nepomuk.  John is depicted holding his fingers in front of his mouth in the traditional “shhh” sign.  John is the patron of the seal of the confessional.  As most of you know, the legend is that John refused to reveal details of the Queen’s confession to her husband, the King.  John’s faithfulness to his priestly vows ultimately led to his death.

 

What about Saint Elizabeth of Hungary? She was the daughter of a king, but rather than live a life of luxury, she built hospitals and worked in them herself, dressing the wounds of the sick.  She only lived twenty-four years, but she took Isaiah’s words in our first reading to heart.

“Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn……..”

 

When Elizabeth’s husband died, she became one of the poor herself.  But, nearly 800 years after her death, her light continues to shine.

 

Saint Wenceslaus was a brave and pious king.  His father had been a good Christian but his mother was a pagan.  Wenceslaus took after his dad.  He was so devoted to his Christian faith that it’s said he grew his own wheat and grapes to make bread and wine for the Eucharist.  He took good care of all his subjects.  He was so good that he has his own Christmas sont.  You know “Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen.”

 

Remember how the song goes.  Wenceslaus was sitting in his warm castle, looking out the window when he saw a poor man gathering firewood.  He called his page and the two of them went out into the cold.  They took food and firewood to the poor man.  The page didn’t think he could make it, but Wenceslaus told him to follow in his footsteps, which he did, adding yet another phrase to the language.

 

Wenceslaus’ brother was a pagan like his mom and in 938 AD, he killed the good king, making him a martyr for the faith.

 

Don’t panic, I’m not going to talk about every saint represented by a statue in our church.  We’d be here a long time if I did.  My point is that every saint is different.  Each one lived a life of heroic virtue in his or her own way.  Some were rich, some were poor.  Some were highly educated, some had no formal education at all.  God created each of them to perform a job here on earth and they all came through with flying colors.

 

Some of our saints were saintly almost from birth.  Some had a conversion at some point in their lives.  Remember, Saint Paul, the man from whom we learn so much about our faith, was a murderer before Jesus knocked him off his horse.  He was even responsible for the stoning death of our first deacon, Saint Stephen.

 

Saint Augustine, one of the great scholars and teachers of the faith was a terrible sinner until his conversion, which was the answer to his mother, Saint Monica’s constant prayers.

 

We have statues, and icons, and paintings of the saints to inspire us to live saintly lives.  But God doesn’t intend for us to mimic them.  There’s already been a Saint Wenceslaus.  If you or I try to be him, we’ll just be a second rate imitation.  A copy is never as good as the original.  Do we really need another “Hawaii 5-0”?  Or another “Dallas”?

 

The point is that God wants to see OUR light.  You may not be a king, or a queen, or a great scholar, or have the money to open a hospital.  God created you and me to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

If you’re a parent, He wants you to be the best parent you can be.  If you’re a husband or wife, He wants you to be the best spouse you can be.  God has given us the saints as inspiration, but not as blueprints.

 

See, if we hold up these men and women on too high a pedestal, we may think we can never measure up.  But notice that Jesus didn’t say “let your light shine, but only if it shines a certain way.”  He calls us to let our particular light shine in our particular way, making it the brightest it can possibly be.

 

Remember the story I told you before.  One tiny match lit one tiny candle which shared its light with its neighbors eventually lighting up an entire arena.  Work each day to be the best, the brightest, version of yourself, and only God knows what you can accomplish with His help.

 

 

 

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