We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. (Hebrews 12:1)
Look into the sky on a summer day, and you will likely see a group of clouds sweeping across the sky. It’s so beautiful that it’s hard not to think of heaven. But how often do these clouds remind you of the people who live in heaven? How often do you think of the heroes of our faith as a great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1)?
In the Old Testament, clouds are often associated with God’s presence among his people. Think of the Israelites as they fled Egypt and headed for the desert. They didn’t know where to go. Sure, God had brought them out of Egypt, but what now? Was he still with them? But then a great pillar of cloud appeared to lead them on their journey. It was a constant sign to them that God was still with them, looking over them and guiding them.
The holy men and women who have gone before us do something similar for us. They tell us that God has always been present and at work in the lives of real human beings. For instance, Abraham testifies that God is faithful. David tells us that God is merciful. Perpetua and Felicity show us how God gives us strength to persevere during persecution. John Bosco declares that God provides for all our needs. And of course, there’s the Virgin Mary, who tells us what it is like to bring Christ into the world.
This great cloud of witnesses isn’t made up only of celebrated heroes from the past. It includes your grandfather, who took you to church every Sunday, or your aunt Teresa, who was known for her generous hospitality. It includes your coworker, who serves at the homeless shelter, and your neighbor, who prays the Rosary on her morning walk.
We are not surrounded by theological propositions. We are surrounded by real human beings with real experiences of God in their lives. They form that great cloud that reminds us God is with us always. They tell us that holiness is possible. And they cheer us on in our race toward Jesus.
So what’s today’s forecast? Cloudy—with a 100 percent chance of grace!
“Jesus, help me remember the holy men and women who surround me and testify to your presence!”