Jun 10, 2016
As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother and she was a widow.
In this life, I cannot imagine any greater pain when already having lost a husband, a woman must further bear the terrible weight of grief having lost a son.
Last week we celebrated Memorial Day and Monday will be the commemoration of D-Day, sad anniversaries that remind us that when wars are fought there are many sons who do not come home to their mothers, but often because of their efforts to protect, serve and defend, entire families remain safe and intact.
It has been reported that on the battlefield, the one word that was most uttered on the lips of a dying soldier, regardless of whether he was ally or enemy was "mom". And as horrible as losing one's son is, dare one even imagine the loss of many sons:
“Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine but attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. Yours very sincerely and respectfully, Abraham Lincoln.”
This letter was read by World War II General George C Marshall to his staff after receiving the news that three of Mrs. Ryan's four boys were killed in action.
To avoid a situation that occurred to Mrs Bixby during the Civil War and those having occurred to the Sullivan Brothers during World War II, it is agreed to find Private James Francis Ryan and bring him home. This mission is entrusted to Captain John Miller played by Tom Hanks in the movie Saving Private Ryan.
Having his core team in place, Captain Miller and his men set off after their D-day invasion landing to find and save Private Ryan. However, there is a major concern on the part of these men:
Private Richard Reiben: You wanna explain the math of this to me? I mean, where's the sense of riskin' the lives of the eight of us to save one guy?
Or as Captain Miller himself would say: This Ryan better be worth it. He’d better go home and cure some disease or invent a longer-lasting lightbulb or something. Cause the truth is, I wouldn’t trade ten Ryans for one Vecchio or one Caparzo.
Having at last found Private Ryan, he and his men are trying to secure a bridge. Private Ryan refuses to go with Captain Miller until the bridge is secure. Captain Miller agrees and despite overwhelming odds to both secure that bridge and the life of Private Ryan, most of the men including Captain Miller will die. Coming over to Captain Miller and leaning in to hear what will be his last spoken words, Captain Miller tells Private Ryan: Earn this. Earn it.
How does one even begin to put a price on the life of one person. We do not need to since that price has already been placed on all of us: And that is the price of the life of the God-Man Jesus Christ.
I cannot no greater temptation to give up on His mission in the garden of Gethsemane than when Satan paraded before Christ all the sins, miseries, horrors and hells humanity would inflict upon itself: nowhere more horrifically then when waging wars, concentration camps and genocides. In Mel Gibson's Movie the Passion, we hear Satan taunting Jesus:
Do you really believe that one man can bear the full burden of sin? It is far too heavy. Saving their souls is too costly.
In the movie Saving Private Ryan, the catch phrase was this time the Mission is the Man. When Christ was entrusted with and recruited for His specific Mission, the directive to do so came from the absolute top of the chain of command as we hear from Sacred Scripture:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.…
The Mission is Man as in all of humanity and as we heard from today's Psalm: I will praise you Lord for you have rescued me. And like that climactic moment on the bridge during the film...the climax of our salvation, our being rescued occurs at a bridge as well...and that is the Cross of Christ.
It is the Cross of Christ, those two intersecting wooden beams that connect Heaven and Earth, man and God, life and death in the person of Christ. Perhaps we never value our own lives or the lives of those we love more fully than when those lives are threatened or until we see the harm we have been saved from.
As General George Marshall insists about Private Ryan: We're gonna get him the hell out of there. And it is the fires and pains of hell especially those inflicted by its power through fear of dying and death and the temptation to despair in the goodness of God that we are saved from. And drawing closer and closer to that bridge, the Cross of Jesus Christ where He labors to breathe his final breaths would we also hear Him say to us: Earn this...Earn it.
We would no doubt have a sense of obligation to live our lives in such a way as to show that we are in fact worth saving except that something freely given cannot be earned. Salvation is a gift from God.
We are saved not because of anything we did, do or might do...but we are saved by virtue of the fact that we exist and that we are loved with an infinitely powerful and eternal love.
Do parents demand that their children earn their love. Do parents withhold their love from their children when they misbehave or don't make the honor role every semester? Unconditional love means there are no conditions placed on love...there is no do this or not do this or else...you are loved because you are you...you are my child...my parent...my spouse...my best friend...My Lord and Savior.
Being aware though of this love...it is meant to motivate us, inspire us and encourage us to love as hard and as best as we can. For when you love someone, you want the best for them and being your best is the best gift of love you can give to them. This love makes good on their investment of love and life in you.
At the conclusion of the movie, Private James Ryan now an elderly man is with his family reflecting at the grave of Captain Miller who he has come to visit, he says: My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I…I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.
Then turning to his wife: Tell me I have led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man. Ryan’s Wife: You are.
And so we find ourselves in a similar situation. With what time we have left...let us recognize beginning with our own families, that every person is worth the life of Jesus Christ dying on that Cross.
That He would have endured all He did even for only one sinner whereas all others were righteous. That though we are worth dying for, we must recommit ourselves to the mission that we are worth living for.. worth fighting for so that the gates of Hell will not prevail against us, our Church or our country.
This is our Mission...God and Humanity. And having successfully completed it, when it comes time for us to breathe our last, and we plead with Christ to tell us that we are good men and good women...He will lean down from that Cross and whisper into our hearts:
Well done my good and faithful servant enter into the Kingdom that has been prepared for you since before the foundation of the world. And like that son of Nain, we too will be restored, resurrected and given over to those we love...this time forever.