Today’s world desperately needs authentic heroes and heroines — not the kind that live in Hollywood and who find it fashionable to promote themselves and their own ideologies, but the kind like Mother Teresa, who allow us, by their very lives, to catch a glimpse of the true greatness and holiness to which we are all called.
From the beginning men and women have been filled with a desire to be like God and to attain, with His help, the heights of heaven. These were the saints. Unfortunately, the gravitational force of individual and communal sin in our hedonistic society has produced a new kind of secular hero that denies God. These heroes are plentiful and are found in all walks of life especially in the sports and entertainment industry.
Unlike the heroes of old whose love for God sought to transformed the world, today’s heroes are morally flawed and leave us so empty. Lady Gaga is a classic example. She is an idol to millions of people. She feeds off of her adoring fans. Her recent album “Born This Way” is a narcissistic exercise in self absorption that never really attempts to answer the core question elicited by the title as to what it really means to be authentically human. For Gaga, the mantra “born this way” is nothing more than a convenient slogan to justify anarchy and sexual permissiveness. From the self-centered costumes she wears to the artificial self-esteem she exudes in song, Lady Gaga stands for everything that is wrong in society. Her self-proclaimed name elicits an empty-headed euphoria, inviting one to be silly, crazy and self-absorbed.
The Beatles were actually one of the first to make it fashionable to reinvent oneself over and over again by constantly changing their music, their clothes, and even their ideas. When they found that this did not fulfill their deepest desires they escaped into a self-indulgent world of sex and drugs. Before their untimely deaths, Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison renounced through song God, the Bible, Jesus, and the Catholic Church.
Today, the movie industry is riddled with false heroes. It is rare, for example, to find a major movie star who has not engaged in some form of screen nudity, violence, sexual activity, or profanity. Nor is it uncommon for movie stars to promote — on screen as well as off — adultery, drug addiction, homosexuality, euthanasia, and other forms of corruption and immorality. Rather than abhor such behavior, our tattoo generation have embraced these imposters, even to the extent of calling them “icons” as if to give them and their sordid behavior a certain religious status – though in reality this is merely a paean to the spirit of the Zeitgeist.
False heroes also abound in the world of sports. Historically, sports was considered to be a virtue-making machine. The values that correspond with sports were considered to go hand in hand with those that go into being a person of integrity and faith. Today, however, sports is increasingly associated with violence, drugs, sex, racism, and money. Sports heroes are worshiped today for the money they make, for their on-field violence, for their off-field partying, for their egos and bravado that includes celebratory dances, strutting and posturing.
Certain technical and athletic aspects of various games like hockey and football have given way to steroid physiques and various forms of intimidation. National heroes like Don Cherry (hockey analyst) of Canada helped promote and legitimize this mentality by glorifying athletic fighting and violence in a colorful and entertaining way. Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers football team, spoke for a generation when he said “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
Our modern heroes have been trying to tell us that heaven can wait, but they have been deceiving us. For two thousand years, the Son of God has been telling us to “repent and believe in the Gospel” as the Kingdom of God is at hand. Fatima, too, reminds us that Heaven cannot wait! Living within this truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life.
The real “stars” are the saints who do not try to be regarded as heroes, or to shock or provoke.
They are people we can really turn to when something is lost or a situation seems hopeless; they are examples we can follow such that when we imitate their lives we too embark on the path of holiness. Just as salt gives flavor to food and light illumines the darkness, so too the holiness of the saints gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect Gods glory.
Real heroes are sinners who experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. They look at us, love us, embrace us, heal us, and give us hope. They teach us not to be afraid. They show us how to live, how to love, how to forgive and how to die. They teach us how to embrace the cross in the most excruciating moments of life, knowing that the cross is not God’s final answer.
True heroes are saints who live with God, relying totally on God’s infinite, divine mercy, going forward with God’s strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving one’s enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. Heroes give their flesh and blood to the Beatitudes throughout their entire life. They are the true reformers.