Excited that this article was just published at Catholic365.
“Yes, I will lay down my life for you, out of love.” These words weigh heavy on my heart this week. A week where red hearts adorn shops all around us. How frequently we throw around the word “love”. We love that restaurant, we love to shop, we love that movie – it’s a word that made me stop and reflect this week on something that, well, quite frankly just never processed in this way before.
This week marks four months since my father-in-law’s passing. He was a United States Marine. He enlisted at the age of 17. One year older than my son, who began a project for our local Veterans this week, in honor of his Grandfather. Both his grandfathers, my father-in-law and my father, served honorably – one in wartime, the other in peacetime. Both said “yes” when they took their Enlistment Oath.
“I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
A soldier may not always know if he will see active duty when he enlists, but they are always prepared to lay down their life. My father, and father-in-law, said “yes” to this act of love. Wow! As a parent, I know I would lay down my life for any one of my children without a thought, but putting a soldier’s “yes” into perspective hit me hard. These two brave and wonderful men that I love, did this not only for their children, but for those they do not know, for many who will forget them, for those who really don’t care. Just as our Lord God did for us.
With Lent less than a week away, our focus is to prepare for the act of self-sacrifice made by Christ in John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whomsoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
I began to think, “am I preparing properly for Lent. With every new life experience, God gives us an opportunity to grow. He gives us an opportunity to seek Him in the experience, understand the challenge or growth, then calls us to act upon it by making, perhaps, new, better choices.
As I think about my son’s project, I think about the many Veterans who we pass by because we are rushed. I can drop a coin in a bucket, or give a passing smile to an elderly vet who wears a military cap or button – this is easy right? But is easy the choice God wants us to make? What would it take to engage this person in a conversation, or to simply stop and thank them for the “yes” they gave for me? Yes, I think I could do better.
As I look around me, do I see the mother in the grocery store who is tired and could use some friendly conversation, or do I skirt around her at the checkout so I don’t have to hear her whining kids (which she’s probably too tired to reprimand for the tenth time). What better choice could I make? How could I lay down my “life in this very moment” for this mom?
Do those I encounter see Jesus in me everyday? Is this the kind of heart that God wants me to work on preparing this year?
Open my heart, O Lord, for something more this Lent. Open my heart to your presence through the people you place in my life.