It’s sometimes easy to believe that we’re not measuring up to what God wants of us. Oh, we try to live good lives, but we often fall short of even our own expectations. We snap at our children. We forget a commitment we made. We have unpleasant thoughts about our next-door neighbor.
When that happens, a lot of us feel that we’re the only people who have ever fallen short of doing what we should. We think that people in the early Church somehow lived better lives, purer lives, holier lives.
Well…actually, not so much.
Let’s talk about the early Church. We have a glimpse of what life was like for the earliest Christians through the letters their leaders wrote and through the Acts of the Apostles. Peter spoke out of turn and was impetuous and impulsive. James and John were called “sons of thunder” because they were so quick to anger and to judge others. Thomas was gloomy and easily discouraged. Matthew struggled with being self-absorbed. And Paul had a tendency to be self-righteous.
And yet these were the people Jesus called. Peter became the first pope, the others founded churches, preached to all nations, died martyrs’ deaths. They struggled, all of them, with very human tendencies and emotions: discouragement, anger, self-pity, depression. And yet they were the people God called!
God doesn’t call saints. He doesn’t call heroes. He calls ordinary people and he makes them saints and heroes.
Think about it. Original sin casts a long shadow; none of us is perfect. God knows that. God knows that no one is born a hero. It’s only through grace and mercy that we can transcend our selfish desires and bad habits and do the great things that we’re called upon to do.
God works through us in order to do heroic things for the world. He uses us, with all our imperfections, our self-obsession, even our sinful nature; he turns all that around in order to create in us new lives, new spirits, and people who do good in and for the world.
That’s pretty breathtaking, when you think of it. Because what it means is that we can all be heroes, if we just let God’s Holy Spirit work within us.
How to Be a Hero: Train with the Saints is our new book intended for pre-teenagers, but there’s a lot of wisdom for adult readers in there as well!
If you want a how-to book for adults, grab a copy of either Saints Alive! The Faith Proclaimed or Saints Alive! The Gospel Witnessed.