No Greater Love

Firemen_Mychal_Judge_ChaplainI appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conform ed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

We don’t speak out often enough about those people who work to preserve the public’s safety and well being. The men and women who serve our communities as firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians certainly give a lot of themselves in order to serve and protect people whom they have never met.

I am sure we can remember the outpouring of sympathy and gratitude for those who gave their lives in New York on September 11, 2001. It is a shame that it takes a tragedy in order for we citizens, the public that they serve, to show how much we appreciate these fine people and the service they provide.

I remember a conversation I had with some friends a while ago about how we don’t pay these people enough for the work that they do. Many police officers, firefighters and EMT’s eke out simple lives as they live on modest salaries. Many others serve as volunteers. But unless I miss my guess, they really aren’t in it for the money.

Sure, these men and women deserve a competitive wage, and they more than earn every dollar. I am sure many wish the pay was better, and it should be. But that doesn’t seem to matter when they are facing a life or death situation, rescuing us from a horrific accident or perhaps even from our own neglect and stupidity. At times such as these, it seems that they are content to be our guardians and our help in times of trouble.

To tell the truth, I don’t believe we can pay these men and women enough for what they do; not in dollars any way. I think money falls way too short of what we owe these people. Along with generous compensation, we owe them honor and respect. We owe them our gratitude; to an extent we owe them our lives. These are the things we ought to pay them as often as possible. We should give to them as unselfishly as they give their lives for us; people they don’t even know.

In the fifteenth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). Jesus teaches us that in order to love someone as God loves us, we should be ready to give of ourselves, even if it means surrendering our life for our neighbor. The apostle Paul affirms this sort of self-giving love and even instructs the Church that as God’s people we ought not think too highly of ourselves. We should instead tend to our neighbors needs as we are able, presenting ourselves as living sacrifices unto the Lord. Simply put, God’s people should live their lives for the sake of others in need.

Twelve years ago today, many put the needs of their neighbor ahead of their own. As thousands of innocent people fell victim to terrorism, many lost their life. Still, many lives were saved through the efforts of those who gave their lives for the sake of their neighbor. Jesus says there is no greater love among people.

Today we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Yet we also give thanks and praise to God for those who come to the aid of people in times of great need. We continue to pray for the safety of those who respond to emergencies, putting their needs behind the needs of those in peril. Thank you God for raising up such people among us, and thank you Lord for the gift of your grace through the sacrifice of your Son Jesus Christ.

Photo courtesy of  Fr. Mychal, chaplain to the FDNY was the first confirmed casualty of the attack on the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001.

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