In Stephen Spielberg’s film, “Saving Private Ryan”, a squadron of young soldiers is sent on a mission to find one particular soldier behind enemy lines and bring him out of danger and home. Most of the men in the group, including the captain, die in the rescue attempt. As the captain lies wounded and dying, his last words to Ryan are, “Earn this.”
At the end of the film, Private Ryan, now an old man, visits the grave of his captain in a cemetery in Normandy. As he kneels at the grave, while his wife and children stand off in the background, he says, “Not a day goes by I don’t think about what happened. And I just want you to know…I’ve tried. Tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that’s enough. I didn’t invent anything. I didn’t cure any diseases. I worked a farm. I raised a family. I lived a life. I only hope in your eyes, at least, I earned what you did for me.”
Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does this mean? It’s not really about being wealthy or poor. It’s really about being willing to trust in God and allow ourselves to be saved by Jesus Christ, His Son. Being “poor in spirit” means we are willing to follow and not let pride get into the way.
One of the ways that we can follow Christ to the Father is by looking at the lives of the saints. They have paved the way for us, just like the captain in the movie paved the way by his sacrifice for Private Ryan. He made sure that the captain’s death was not wasted on him.
We can make this same connection to Christ’s death on the cross. Does it mean something to us? Or do we say that that death was meant for someone else, not me?
When we give honor to the saints, it’s a way to remind ourselves that we are on the same journey that they were on. Picture a race. You’re at a track meet, for instance, and there’s the crowd cheering the runners on to the finish line. Or better yet, the ones cheering have finished the race themselves and they are offering encouragement to ones still “on the journey”. That’s who the saints are to us in a sense. Their lives of faith encourage us on as we continue to do our best to live out our lives for ourselves and others.
Jesus says to us, “Earn this!” The saints say to us, “Earn this!” And in the day to day circumstances of our life, with our gifts and our flaws, our holiness and our sins, we “don’t let a day go by that we don’t think about what happened.” How salvation was won for us. We also know that we are encouraged on the way, living our lives for Christ.