Memorial Day: What it Means to “Lay Down Your Life” for Others

On this Memorial Day, we pause to honor all of those military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to defend the freedom of others. May they rest in peace and may we always remember and be inspired by their selfless actions.

This holiday also gives us an opportunity to reflect on what it means to “lay down your life” for others. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV). Jesus, of course, laid down his life for us. Over the centuries of Church history, many martyrs have laid down their lives for their faith. And, of course, many military personnel as well as first responders have laid down their lives for others.

What about the rest of us? Is the “greatest love” out of reach for the average person because we have not and probably will not physically die/be killed because of our faith? I think we have too narrowly defined what it means to “lay down your life” for others. While some, like Jesus, actually die for others, the rest of us are called to lay down our lives for others each and every day. To die for others is the ultimate example, but ultimately, to lay down your life means to set your own needs aside in order to tend to the needs of others.

We are called to do this everyday. Parents and spouses set aside their own needs in order to tend to the needs of their children and one another. Teachers and catechists set aside their own needs to tend to the needs of their students. Doctors and nurses set aside their own needs to tend to the needs of their patients. Workers set aside their own needs to tend to the needs of their customers or co-workers. And so on.

So, on this Memorial Day, let us honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our freedom and, from their example, may each of us be inspired to set aside our own needs willingly in order to pay attention to the needs of others. And in doing so, may we experience the greatest love imaginable: the love of God!

P.S. I honor all of our veterans, including my dad, the late John H. Paprocki, Jr., who served in WWII.


About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

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