John, Chapter 15, Verse 13
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Today, there are two beautiful examples of this from modern times. The Episcopal Church celebrates Jonathan Myrick Daniels. Young Jonathan was a seminarian, who answered the call of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join others in the fight for Civil Rights. He ventured to Selma, Alabama from New Hampshire at the age of twenty-six to march for justice. Shocked at the injustices he saw in the South, he decided to extend his trip. Only a few days later, a shotgun wielding man tried to take the life of seventeen year old Ruby Sales when Mr. Daniels stepped in front of the bullet and laid down his life for her. Ms. Sales is still alive today. It’s a story of true heroism, and a real life example of living the message Jesus taught his disciples.
The Catholic Church celebrates Maximillian Kolbe today. Kolbe was a Franciscan Friar working in Poland when the Nazis overtook the country. The Germans offered him a path to freedom, with conditions, to which he refused. He stayed loyal to his call, and for that, became imprisoned. His time under control of the Nazis brought him to Auschwitz. One day, he overheard a fellow prisoner being sent to death. The man was crying out, ‘My wife, my children.’ Kolbe offered to take his place, to which the Nazis permitted. They killed Maximillian by lethal injection. The man whose life he sparred so heroically went on to live until age 93. He passed away in 1995. Again, a true moment of selfless heroism.
Our lives may never put us in moments like Nazi Germany or the pre-Civil Rights South. We can only be so fortunate to not experience these moments of pure evil. We can, however, be mindful of two things.
The first is keeping a watchful eye out to guard against evil creeping into society and expanding like an uncontrollable virus through our community, country, or world. The devil is always lurking, and he will constantly try to find selfish people to carry out his harm. We must stay vigilant. We cannot stand for injustice, even if it does not impact us directly.
The second mission is to not take Jesus’s words in John’s Gospel literally. We may not find ourselves in a moment to actually die for someone, but there will always be moments in our life that we can step up and help our fellow brothers and sisters. We should to listen to the struggles they are enduring, and watch for moments that welcome our love or support. This is something we can do daily. We can communicate to see if a stranger needs our help. We can use our eyes to recognize a moment when someone is in danger, or experiencing difficulty. We do not necessarily have to die for someone, like the two brave gentleman aforementioned, but instead, be the person who is there to help a brother or sister in need.
A man once shared a story about a deeply personal struggle in his life. God put a woman in front of him, and she led him to the help he desperately needed. He credits this woman with saving his life. He also admits that if he were to walk by this Angel on the street, he would not recognize her. He doesn’t know her name, and hasn’t seen her since the moment she led him to help many years ago. This one instant. This one selfless act from a stranger for her fellow brother saved his life. She doesn’t even know it. That is true, selfless, heroism. That is laying down one’s life for another. We can all do this. We just need to listen.