Be a revolutionary, be a saint

By Mary Ann Otto | Special to The Compass | October 19, 2016

maryannotto_web-graphicWho is your favorite revolutionary? If you have ever been to Boston or Philadelphia it is wonderful to get caught up in the history of our country. We certainly have had many men and women who changed the course of political and economic history. No doubt they bore many hardships and we are the recipients of their efforts and courage.

Have you ever considered your call to be a revolutionary? Pope Francis, in his book, “The Church of Mercy,” says that if you are a Christian you need to be part of a revolution. Why? It is because Jesus is the most prominent revolutionary of all time. He has transformed the hearts of anyone who has heard and accepted his message in the last 2,000 years.

Pope Francis so eloquently uses the passage from Ezekiel that states, “I will take out of your flesh a heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” to emphasize the core of the Jesus revolution. So powerful was Jesus’ message that once truly heard, people could not help themselves. They had to live their lives driven by love and by mercy. These people from the past who were swept up in the Jesus revolution were audacious witnesses and messengers. We call them saints and models for our time and we can encounter the power of the Holy Spirit in their stories.

Sometimes I wonder, however, if we are unable to relate to our saints because of our cultural experiences. These revolutionary men and women seem so different from you and me and lived in a time when life seemed much simpler. The beautiful Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, when described as a living saint, responded: “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” I think she knew that you and I might avoid our call to join the Jesus revolution if we deemed her life and call so different from our own.

Yet, many of our most famous saints began with hearts of stone. Like you and me, they struggled with their own insecurities, selfishness and sinfulness during their lives. The times they lived in were difficult in different ways. For some, like St. Paul and St. Francis, their call to holiness came through dramatic encounters with Christ. Conversion for most, however, was a slow and sometimes painful process which perhaps is more of our own story.

Soon we will be celebrating the beautiful Feast of All Saints in our church and it would be interesting to challenge ourselves to be the revolutionary of love and mercy that we have been called to through our baptism. Though we will most likely never be officially canonized by the church, we will hopefully be joining the Communion of Saints one day.

So where do we begin in joining this revolution? Dorothy Day concurs with Pope Francis when she states: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” We need to constantly pray for the ability to see each other and every human person through the lenses of Jesus. Can we honestly look fellow parishioners — people in our communities, the poor and the poor spirit — in the eyes and feel love and mercy? Are we horrified by the struggles and treatment of other human beings?

I believe it is when our heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh that we are called into action as Christian revolutionaries. It is in those moments of conversion that the Holy Spirit helps us to see where God wants us to share the good news in witness and word. We become not just good people doing good things, but a powerful reminder of a God who loves us, redeemed us and is with us.

As Jesus revolutionaries and saints in the making, the Spirit calls us to step up and gratefully place the gifts of our talents and treasure in service to our parish because it is where we nourished and it is our lifeline to serving the greater community and the world. Though each of us is responsible for bringing the love and mercy of Jesus into our daily experiences, the power of what we can accomplish together as a community of believers is undeniable.

This Nov. 1, perhaps each of us can commit or recommit ourselves to this important revolution.

Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.

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