The first reading suggests that Jews take inspiration from the great heroes in their past, but we Christians are inclined to say our heroes were greater than theirs. What was so great about Samson and Jephthah? Samson killed a hall full of banqueting Philistines, Jephthah put his daughter to the sword. We would take Francis of Assisi and Theresa of Lisieux before them any day.
The tribute to ancient heroes of the Jewish people should remind us of how unmindful we are of our ancestors. Perhaps some of you have done a genealogy search, but must of us don’t know any names back before our great-grandparents.
Once when I was idly browsing in a library I pulled down a book with the title Early Missions in Missouri, and I came across a reference to my father’s great-great-grandparents. They had brought a baby girl to be baptized by a priest spending one night in their town. That glimpse into one evening of their lives whet my appetite for hearing more of their story. What were the hardships in Ireland that led them to emigrate? What was the sea voyage like? What mode of transport had they from New York to upstate Missouri? Did they plant potatoes when they got there?
Each of us owes everything to an endless string of ancestors who remained sober and healthful enough to hand us on strong genes. I like that old song about a Gold Mine in the Sky. “We’ll say hello to friends who said goodbye, when we find that long lost gold mine in the sky.” Maybe we’ll recognize those ancestors who gave us everything.