A young American man, motivated by his Christian faith, decided to commit a year of his life serving the poor in Africa.
He had no idea what he was in for.
Serving in a country that was suffering under a corrupt government and severe famine, he witnessed death, disease and hunger in a way he never imagined possible. Day after day, he was confronted with sick children, hungry women and battle-scarred men, none of whom he felt he could help.
After a few weeks, the feeling of powerless and despair began to eat at his heart. “Where is God in all this?”, he would ask himself. “Why is God allowing this? Why won’t He stop it?” And the suspicion crept into his soul that maybe God does not really exist or, if He does, He does not care.
All these thoughts were running through his mind as he, along with several other young men, was bringing a truck full of food to a village deep in the jungle. When they arrived, villagers came streaming out of their huts to meet them. It had been days since any of them had eaten and they were anxious to get their hands on some food. The young men feared that they would run out of provisions and that the mob would turn violent. However, soon all the food had been passed out and the crowd began to disperse.
The only person left was a young girl, no more than eight years old. The young man’s heart broke as he explained to her that all he had left to give her was one banana that he had been saving for himself for the long drive back. He gave it to her, and she thanked him. Watching her leave, he saw her take it to two other girls younger than herself. She peeled the banana, gave half to one of the girls, gave the other half to the other girl and then started licking the inside of the peel
At that moment, the young man knew that God was real, that He existed and that He cared. The girl’s generous act reminded him that even in the most horrendous of circumstances, the love of God is at work in the world and, therefore, there is still hope.
The young man’s experience teaches us a powerful lesson. We learn about the love and compassion of God from one another. Our goodness is a reflection of the goodness of God. Our good deeds done in charity point to One who is greater than ourselves. And it is our life’s purpose to show forth the glory of God by giving of ourselves in love to one another.
That is what a saint is - one who reflects the love and goodness of God. By his or her good deeds and holy life, each saint directs our gaze to the One who created us in His image and likeness. The saint is the one who proves to us that God is real by the goodness of his or her life. Stronger than any philosophical argument, more convincing than any rhetorical device, is the witness of a holy man or woman.
That is what each of us is called to be. Becoming a saint means learning to be who we really are. Each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. It is in our nature to reflect His love and goodness. Saint John tells us in the second reading that we are the children of God. Just as a child looks like his or her father, so we “look like” our Heavenly Father. Just as all that a child has comes from his or her father, so all that we have and are comes from our Heavenly Father. We are His children called to live the love, the goodness and the truth that He has revealed to us in His Son, Jesus Christ.
We live in a world filled with young men like the one I described at the beginning of this homily. They are women and men who are beaten down by all the suffering they have experienced either in themselves or in their loved ones. Looking at the condition of our society, they are slowly being drained of their hope. It is up to us as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ to be like the young girl. We have to be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others so that they may be restored in the hope of God’s goodness. Through the holiness of our lives, we must witness to them that a relationship with God is possible, that they can find forgiveness and healing in the One who gave His life to save them.
This world is in need of saints. This society needs you and me to live out the good news of Jesus Christ in a total and uncompromising fashion. It may seem like a daunting task. There are times when we ourselves feel overwhelmed not only by the condition of the world but by our own weakness and sinfulness. That is why we need to make use as frequently as possible of the sacraments, of prayer and of friendships with other believing Christians. We cannot do it alone. We can only do it through the power of our God.
For those who believe in God, there is always hope. We hold on to our Heavenly Father’s promise that He is always with us and that He has an eternal reward awaiting us in heaven. That hope gives us confidence to show His love to everyone we meet. We pray that our good works and prayers will fill others with hope to be beacons of light overcoming the world’s darkness.