I live a short drive from Memphis, Tennessee, home of Rock ‘n Roll king Elvis Presley. Each day visitors flock to his former home, Graceland, to pay their respects and learn more about the life of the music icon. Fans bring gifts from all over the world to leave at his grave, located on the property, and aspiring musicians marvel at the hallways filled with platinum records and awards. On his birthday and the anniversary of his death, crowds pack the property as well as neighboring shops and museums.
On a different spectrum, Florida State University began their football season with a tribute to legendary coach Bobby Bowden which included his signature affixed to each player’s helmet, a painting on the field, and even the band forming a tribute during their performance. Bowden joins the likes of former Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and current Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban being on the top of the list of those admired by countless. Young football players aspire to be the next Peyton Manning, Jerry Rice, or Tom Brady. They look to coaches such as The Bear, Bowden, or Saban as role models for the kind of coaches they dream of becoming in life.
Our children have heroes and if we admit it, we all have heroes. Music icons, athletic superstars, or business professionals who have reached the pinnacle of success all become role models for us. We have no problem putting humans on a pedestal and aspiring to do what they have done and reach the success they have achieved. Many who have followed in the footsteps of these heroes have spent countless hours training, studying the life of their hero and their methods and getting every single aspect of their hero’s life down to a science where they can attempt to duplicate. Of course, there will never be another Elvis Presley or “Bear” Bryant. However, those who become stars by admiring these heroes have not done it easily.
So, why is it so difficult for us to spend time studying our faith heroes? Why it is so difficult for many to understand the need for us to examine the lives of our heroes and to seek to follow in their footsteps? We all may not desire to be famous musicians or have the athletic ability to be an Olympic champion like Michael Phelps, but we all can become saints and should desire to do so. We will all enter eternity. We will all have an eternal destination.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” – I Corinthians 11:1
St. Paul exhorts us and tells us to do what he is doing. Why? St. Paul is seeking to imitate Christ and become a saint. Perhaps it is difficult for us to imagine ourselves imitating the likes of the Blessed Mother or even Christ. However, we do have the ability to imitate real heroes such as St. Paul. Perhaps it is easier to believe that our children can be the next Tom Brady or that we can be the next CEO of a company than it is to think we can be the next saint. We must remember the saints were human as well. We do not speak much of their sins and talk more about their triumphs and faith, but let us never overlook the fact they were indeed human and just as we can aspire to be the next Nick Saban or Adele, we can be the next St. Jude, St. Teresa of Calcutta, or even the next St. Paul.
The questions we must ask ourselves is how badly do we want it? How badly do we want to become a saint? Do we value earthly success over eternal life?
Who are we really modeling our actions, desires, and life after?