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Jesus, the American Soldier, and Memorial Day

In the United States, Memorial Day is a time that is set aside to remember the sacrifices that America’s fighting men and women have made on behalf of their country. Although America loves her living soldiers, Memorial Day is reserved for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for others. Interestingly, such men and women share something in common with Jesus. Like him, they offered their lives so that others could live – and not just so that they could live, but that they could live free. Of course, many of these Americans were unlike Jesus in important ways. Some were atheists, others were scoundrels and sinners, and still others lived their own lives in chains of darkness we can never know. Even so, they gave up enjoyment of their own lives for the sake of others.

But this isn’t the only thing they share in common with Jesus. Just like many of us have done with Christ, people have forgotten the weight of the sacrifice those soldiers made. In the case of Memorial Day, some people simply treat it as a day off from work, and never give a second thought to the importance of what transpired in order for them to enjoy that day off. Without the fighting men and women who sacrificed everything, no one would be able to enjoy the freedom and safety necessary to appreciate the day set aside to remember them, let alone any other day. And most of these people do not have what it takes to do what those have done to give them the freedoms they enjoy but treat so lightly.

But this doesn’t mean that we should walk darkly and somberly through Memorial Day with our heads low and our spirits darkened. Instead, it means that we should treat it with reverence and respect, while fully enjoying the freedoms granted by what transpired to protect those freedoms. Should we look to the deaths of those soldiers soberly? Yes. But it is unlikely that they would want us to wallow in gloom and sadness. They would want us to enjoy what they provided, and to appreciate it completely and righteously.

And this constitutes another thing they have in common with Jesus. It is true that Christ wants us to earnestly remember his sacrifice. After all, he gave us the sacrament of communion for that very purpose. But more importantly, he would want us to recognize the value of the freedom that he gave us and to cherish it by living a life devoted to an ever improving holiness, and an ever improving personal relationship with the father who made us for that purpose. Those freedoms and that relationship were so valuable that he paid the ultimate price to secure them for our appreciation. And we should appreciate them. Everyday.

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