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.