(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Mass-Blog-for-the-28th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-time-2021.mp3)
As someone who has never served in the armed forces, or as any kind of first-responder for that matter, I always feel an obligation to thank such people for their service—especially in this age when populations are threatened by terrorism on a global scale and cries of “defund the police” here at home. Service can be a thankless and endless job.
So why would someone deciding what to do with their life choose such an occupation? People of faith might cite the inspiration of St. Michael, to whom we pray “be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.” Others may reference the faith-filled wisdom of the Centurion who impressed Jesus by leavening his faith with the humility of asking our Lord to cure this soldier’s servant—from a distance. The Centurion didn’t feel worthy to be in Jesus’ presence while he did it. Jesus topped this man’s chain of command—and this commander trusted the Master to work miracles through it (LUKE 7:8):
“For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
First-responders often base their capabilities on, and owe their lives to, the wisdom of their chain of command. For those who cite faith as their source of strength, many can relate to Sunday’s first reading from the book of wisdom (Wis 7:7-11):
I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.
And often, neither do cops, doctors, nurses or soldiers. They put themselves out in the open when danger surrounds them. Many find their strength in the belief that they are conspicuous to God, and therefore devote themselves to acts they trust will please their Commander. Sunday’s second reading from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews supports such a belief (Heb 4:12-13):
No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
But too often the people first responders protect forget that they are also accountable for a life of service. As Jesus tells the rich man in Sunday’s gospel reading from Mark (Mk 10:17-30), when he asks the Master for the keys to heaven’s door, obedience to earthly laws is just one of them. We need to get to the point where laws governing misbehavior become irrelevant. That requires a willingness to see the temporary comforts and challenges of this life as the means of God’s answer to our prayers for eternal wisdom. Jesus concludes:
“Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
Before that age dawns on us, we should first respond.
Tom, responding to God’s love for us should be our daily and life long objective. Our mission assignment is to know, love, and serve God NOW and live in union with Him forever in heaven.
God’s love for us is without limit. Our love for Him is shown in how we live our lives. How has your response been?
First-responders are great examples of the kind of heroic love we are called to live, Thomas. Like them, Doing the right thing is our job. Inspiring us to do our job is God’s. I love the 6th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus prefaces teaching us the “Our Father” by inspiring in us the attitude with which to pray it: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. … [Instead,] Go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Ever since THAT lesson, heroic saints among us have taught us by example how to live our lives as a prayer.
Nice blog Tom. I think that in general, first responders, military, etc., try to live to a higher standard and are expected to, within their field and by the public. Most do but some fail to do so. When they do fail they are judged harshly and sometimes not given a second chance. To be on your game 24/7 can in itself be stressful. Certainly much more can be said about this. We as Christians are called to a higher standard. (Think Sir Thomas More). We must be different. We can not take what others do as our standard. God calls us to be like Jesus….the highest standard.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ROMANS 12:2
God bless all of our first responders.
Mark, as a first-responder yourself, I know you speak from vast experience. You’ve probably seen the best and worst in humanity when they’re put to the test. Rising above the challenges of this world is hard enough, but our own internal challenges of character offer daily opportunities to rise to those occasions. The latest news reports of clashing political and military priorities dramatize that. Our egos often drown-out what our soul might be telling us is God’s will. Next week’s blog will touch on that.
TA, I’m sure you and the BIC brothers will agree that serving others is not only a duty, it is an absolute pleasure. Sure there are times when it sucks, but the vast majority of the time we receive immeasurable grace without even asking. We all serve the only One that matters. Each in the way He guides us. So to my brethren I say keep serving!
Your message is timely, Brother Kevin. Covid has decimated the ranks of support staffs in hospitals and nursing homes, and many older people are isolated from loved ones–even those who live at home. As you know from your own record of service, there are many volunteer opportunities available to fill in those blanks in our society. One that is currently available in our own parish of St. Michael is delivering meals to shut-ins. One lady at Vista Springs, Beth Bowman, has been handling this ministry herself lately and has asked for volunteers to help deliver lunches. I’m using this opportunity you provided through your comment to invite any local residents reading this who have availability between 11am and 2pm Tuesday through Friday to help deliver those lunches (I took Mondays). Beth’s phone number is 216-232-4900.