With today being Veterans day, a day filled with bittersweet emotion of both chaos and triumph, we are once more reminded of those brave men and women who risked – their life – for ours. At my place of work, I tend to see more of an older crowd (which include many veterans), rather fragile, rather feisty, elderly ladies in their sweetness smiling at me while their husbands protest a return date interfering with “golf day”, fussing up some trivial conflict all while the woman’s smile remains unprovoked. Sort of makes you feel like you’re on the set of I Love Lucy. A love tolerance, indeed, and quite entertaining to see. Nevertheless, hand in hand, arm in arm, they stroll out, with an apparent dementia hitting the husband because he immediately props all doors open for his better half. And, every so often, a gentleman’s farewell bid in the form of a wink is exchanged, “Yeah, you’ll learn someday,” is silently proposed to me – I just smirk back.
So what is it that keeps these two devoted? A promise? a commitment? How about both – a commitment to their commitment! Never abandoning through the thick and thin, the good and the bad, upholding that loyalty to one another because they put their “self” second to their spouse – that is grace. Daily sacrifice, and courage, and a love reflected only through the one who became man to love us in its most perfect form – Christ. And still, I don’t understand it. But rather, it attracts me because that’s what we were created for – to love! – selflessly. We can learn a lot from this “selfless love”, in whatever state of life you find yourself in, inviting us to thoroughly abandon our self needs and desires, so that only through His grace we come to fathom the true definition of the The Word – which is love: willing the good of the other.
As 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 reads: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
This formula in scripture not only instructs us on how to truly love: in patience, in kindness, in selflessness. But, it also instructs us on how to suffer: bearing all things, believing all things, enduring all things – It calls us to a state of vulnerability, and how uncomfortable, but this is where, and how, the grace of hope is produced in our hearts – to persevere through our hardships in life, in our relationships, when emotions and feelings get the best of us. We just need to ask ourselves during these moments – are these feelings of anger, jealousy, bitterness, etc – coming from God who is Beauty, Truth, and Goodness? Of course not! Pope Francis had this advice for couples – “Do not end any day without asking each other for forgiveness, having peace back in your house and your family,” he said. “Never end a single day without being at peace with each other. This is the secret in order to preserve love.”
So, just as their witness and loyalty to the cause they gave themselves to – to each other – the witness of the next brave and faithful souls, are an inspiration and direction for us on being more Christ-like, on how to love correctly, how to sacrifice correctly, and allowing us to unite Christ’s heavenly love with our earthly love, as imperfect as ours may be. Some of these stories are truly heroic, some barbaric, and hard for you and I to recreate, God forbid, but as St. Therese once shared, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love!”
Fr. Francis L Sampson, whose heroic actions served as the plot to my all-time favorite movie – Saving Private Ryan, was not only captured and starved by enemy forces, multiple times, but he never carried a weapon (with the exception of a crucifix), imprisoned for tending to the wounded when the face of danger was to much and all retreated. And, when finally let go, was crazy enough to go back and tend to them again, including enemy forces! Mother Elise, or Elisabeth of the Eucharist, sheltered Jewish women and children in her convent during the war. When the Gestapo conducted a search on grounds of suspicion, she only told them, “Do not touch the women or the children.” She was arrested and sent to a concentration camp where she cared for the imprisoned, and her faithful end was through volunteering for a mother being sent to the gas chamber.
These valiant souls are just some of the very few who lovingly gave themselves to serve, protect, and honor their brothers and sisters in Christ. The faces of those they compassionately cared for, whether friends, strangers or enemies, was the very face of Christ – “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
God with us.