At its best, life is a confusing complex of truths in tension. What work demands of us often diminishes
home life. What governments call legal, the church sometimes calls immoral. What conscience requires,
the world regularly calls foolish. What was once called absolute by many is now seen as meaningless by
most. What is the path through such uncertainties? Where is the pool in such cross currents? How do
we chart a way through places we have never been before?
At times like that, there is only one sure place to turn. In times of uncertainty and stress and tension,
we look for people like ourselves, reachable figures, who have lived well through situations similar to
our own as proof that we too, in all our smallness, can stretch ourselves to the limits of the best of us.
We call them saints when what we really often mean to say is "icon," "star," "hero," ones so possessed
by an internal vision of divine goodness that they give us a glimpse of the face of God in the center of
the human. They give us a taste of the possibilities of greatness in ourselves.
Not all those who point the way to God for us may themselves be perfect. There are figures gleaming in
their holy causes who are awkward in their personal lives. They are sometimes in confusion, as we are.
They are virtuous beyond telling in one dimension and weak to the point of sin in others. At the same
time, they hold a fire in their hearts bright enough to light a way for many. They are impelled by the
will of God for humankind and they will brook no less. They stand on gilded stilts above the rest of their
generation and become a sign for all generations. They are proof of possibility from ages past and a
symbol of hope for ages yet to come. They stand in mute conviction of the age in which they lived and
challenge us to do the same. Most of all, they are important to us now.
In their eyes burn the eyes of a God who sees injustice and decries it, sees poverty and condemns it,
sees inequality and refuses it, sees wrong and demands that it be set right. These are people for whom
the Law above the law is first in their lives. These are people who did not temporize with the evil in
one system just because another system could have been worse. These are people who saw themselves
clearly as the others' keepers. They are the people who gave themselves entirely to the impulses of
God for the sake of the world.
–from A Passion for Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis)
Martin Luther King, Jr:
a glimpse of the face of God