From the Pastor – February 23, 2014

Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. (Lk 6:20-23)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since the Saints won the Super Bowl. I remember it like it was yesterday! It seems that since Katrina, we have needed a symbol for the “renaissance” of our city. It could have come from the outpouring of support we received from people living outside of the state, or even from the revamping of our own city government. It could have come from the outside businessmen, artists, musicians, actors, and celebrities who have taken an interest in our home. But it is fitting that one of the biggest symbols of our renaissance is one of our own. It’s the team that was never supposed to win. It’s the team that lost its home to the storm. It’s the team that traveled like refugees for a year, like so many of our friends. And after winning the Super Bowl three years ago, so many members of the team said the same thing: they did it for US! They brought joy, excitement and pride to the city we love so much.

But as we head into the season of Lent, we should be reminded that the saints in Heaven got there through the same hard work that enabled the New Orleans Saints to win a Super Bowl ring. Now, I’ve written about the heresy of “Pelagianism” before, the mistaken belief that man is saved by his own goodness and efforts, rather than by Jesus. So I’m not saying that the saints in Heaven got there “on their own.” And, in fact, many commentators (and friends) have attributed the success of our football team to “Divine intervention.” I can promise you that I say my share of prayers for the Saints every season!

But still, each year the New Orleans Saints begin their season with a goal, and they work hard to achieve it. And even if they didn’t make it to the Super Bowl this year, they had a lot of successes. The saints in Heaven had a goal, too, and they worked their entire lives to achieve it. The paths are similar. A football team works hard, sacrifices, prepares, supports each other, and believes that God will help them in all of their endeavors – on and off the field. And the saints in heaven worked hard (in whatever vocation they had), sacrificed (fasting & abstinence), prepared (by confessing their sins and seeking purity of heart), supported each other (by communal prayer and Mass) and believed that God would help them. Lent is a time of particular preparation for Heaven – following the sacrificial practices of the saints. We are always joyful when our team wins, but that joy is just a glimpse of the everlasting joy Heaven. Let Lent allow us to keep our eyes on the prize. Remembering the success of the New Orleans Saints inspires us to aspire to the success of the saints in Heaven!

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty