ints are imperfect people. People like you and I who try to live according to the Gospel handed down to us from those who came before us. While the official calendar of “saints” tells us stories of great faith and sacrifice, sometimes to the point of death, the saints in our own lives probably lived lives that were much less heroic in the grand scheme of things; yet for us, they were people whom we loved and whose lives were an example to us of a life faithfully lived.
I have often spoken of my mentor Bill Mahedy, who is one of the faithful we will remember today. Before I met Bill, he was an Army chaplain in Vietnam, serving in country with the troops, trying to help them through some very dark times. Eventually, he left the Army and the Catholic Church and became an Episcopal priest. Much of the rest of Bill’s career was as a Veteran’s Affairs chaplain, serving the veterans that he loved so deeply. Some of Bill’s work helped to get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder recognized by the Psychiatric community. That enabled vets to get the treatment they so desperately needed to heal. Unfortunately, many vets even now do not seek out that help. Bill, being Bill, went out and sought them, and connected them to treatment.
For a while, Bill became Padre, the much beloved campus and young adult chaplain in San Diego. We loved that cantankerous curmudgeon. As he did with the veterans he served, he walked with young adults who were trying to make their way through life; he discovered that many of the young adults he met suffered from abuse that caused them to also suffer from PTSD. Once again, he helped many in our community seek out services that they needed. The good Padre was far from a perfect person. He could curse better than most sailors, and he had a bit of a temper that he used mostly for good. If he loved you and believed in you, he supported you and loved you sometimes to a fault. He was a dedicated priest, father and husband. When I think of the people responsible for my formation he is at the top of the list.
Bill loved Jesus. He taught our community to love Jesus. Bill would often say that it didn’t matter what the questions about life were, because the answer was always Jesus. That’s a piece of wisdom I have always remembered even in dark times. It helps to bring light into those dark places.
I’m sure that you have wonderful stories about the people we remember today. We remember the great saints of our history, but we also remember the saints in our own lives, people who made a difference to us, sometimes despite themselves!
In our gospel today, Jesus tells those gathered who are listening what life in the kingdom of God looks like; the poor will receive good news, the hungry shall be fed, those who weep shall be happy. He warns them that life as a disciple isn’t easy – he warns that the message of the kingdom isn’t always received well. He tells those who are doing well, that their luck may not hold out if they don’t turn things around and use their resources to help bring about the work of the kingdom. Then he tells them and us, that in order to bring the kingdom of God to earth that we have to go even further than we imagined; loving our enemies and doing good to those who hate us, turning the other cheek… It’s a hard, hard message to hear, and it’s even harder to do. And yet, when we look at how Jesus related to people, it is exactly what he did. Everything for Jesus came down to relationship with others and with God. Jesus was both God and man so that the relationship between humanity and God could be restored, and I think reshaped in such a way that it could no longer be separated. That is a gift from God that has no limits, all because God desired to love us even more than we can imagine.
Our beloved whom we remember today, our own “saints” are part of the great cloud of witnesses that join us today as we celebrate the Great Thanksgiving today. There are times when the veil between us and them is very thin and we can feel them with us. As they take part in God’s great banquet, I hope that today of all days, we will feel them with us. I give thanks for them and for the lessons they have taught us; I give thanks that they helped us to know Jesus. May we join with them and give praise to God this day and every day. And like my dearest friend Bill said, remember no matter the hard life question, the answer is Jesus.