Heroes beyond Banners

(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Mass-Blog-for-the-32nd-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time-2022.mp3)

We’re well into fall, and the Hero banners that have been hanging from our city’s light poles have been taken down for their ceremonial presentation to the families of the loved ones they represent. These are tributes to the war veterans who made a home and started families in our little town. Two of them honor my father and father-in-law—both veterans of WWII. If they were still with us, neither would accept that they were heroes. They were regular guys who were inducted into a global struggle against the forces of evil.

But as scripture and literature show, all heroes pass through the valley of reluctance before rising to heroism and reaching their reward. Sometimes that reward only comes after earthly death. But along their journey through life, heroes sometimes long for the reassurance they’ve done the right things for a worthy cause.

In our fathers’ cases, their preferred reward was to live a long life. But during the war they and their fellow reluctant heroes fought, Hitler and Stalin represented clear threats to millions of innocent lives—so if it meant putting theirs on the line to save others, knowing the cause was worthy was a reward in itself. That’s why, among those banners representing heroes who went on to raise families and to grow old like our dads, there are also memorials honoring KIAs—heroes killed in action. The faces on them are young, and their steely eyes don’t yet betray any sign of fear or war weariness. However, in many cases the soul behind them speaks as sternly to their enemy as the imprisoned band of brothers do to theirs in this Sunday’s first reading from Second Maccabees (2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14).

“You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.”

Heroes of faith throughout history have also believed in the rewards of heaven following a resurrection. But even heroes who may not have religious faith come to believe in the life of their cause beyond their own lives. In that life, THEY have life. In this Sunday’s letter from Paul to the Thessalonians (2 Thes 2:16-3:5), he combines that kind of faith with his Godly faith to instruct heroes in the art of becoming a lasting faith for others:

“We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you, you are doing and will continue to do. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”

Heroes learn the art of endurance and resurrection throughout their lives. If they don’t die, they keep rising to the next cause—whether it be learning and teaching a skill, raising and teaching a family, or devoting their lives to a vocation.

Then what? What happens when our heroes die? To what do they rise? And when WE die, will we see them as we do in those Hero banners?

Jesus answers that question for resurrection skeptics (Lk 20:27-38):

“They are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out ‘Lord, ‘ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Heroes get their courage from the spirit of a God who says “I AM.” They identify this God as a way of life—from the fruition of youth, to the seed that falls at death, to their eternity that sprouts after it.

–Tom Andel

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