THE GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES

By Father Vincent Treglio
 
It has been said that it is not easy to be a Christian in today’s world. There are so many things that pull us this way and that. Those values we grew up with seem today to be out dated. Society has changed greatly from what we recall when we were younger. Family values, which were so strong in the past seem all but gone. We might truly wonder where we are headed. I guess, we all have days when we reflect on what will happen to our society. We need only read the morning paper to get almost a feeling of doom. But once in a while we do run across someone or have some experience that tells us that all is not lost.
 
In the Letter to the Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1 we are reminded that we are surrounded by a ‘cloud of witnesses’, those who have gone before us in the faith. We might think that they had it easy because they lived in the ‘good old days’, but I’m sure that they had their share of trouble living up to the call they received God.
 
There is a litany of names recorded at the end of chapter 11 of Hebrews. People like Abraham, Able, Enoch, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel and the many prophets of old, as well as those who came after them and followed the Lord and his call to discipleship, all had their share of trouble in living up to live lives of virtue in a society that pulled them to the worship of other gods, to living lives of sinfulness in a pagan world. These great ancient heroes surround us and stand before us to give us strength and inspiration.
 
In his commentary on the book of Hebrews, William Barclay wrote, “An actor would act with double intensity if he know that some famous dramatic master was watching him. An athlete would strive with double effort if he knew that a stadium of famous Olympic athletes were watching him. It is of the very essence of the Christian life that it is lived in the gaze of the heroes of the faith, who lived, suffered and died in their day and generation. How can a person avoid the struggle for greatness with an audience like that looking down upon him” (The St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh: 1976)
 
Yes, it is hard sometimes to be a Christian. But we have a great army who have gone before us to show us the way. The heroes of our Old and New Testaments cheer us on to victory. They are the ones who support us with their prayers and their stories. They are to ones who tell us that if we are willing to struggle and hold firm to what our faith calls us to, then a great reward awaits us in the joys of the Father’s kingdom.