This day always brings the memory of my father closer to me. My father served in World War II, and his experiences in the war changed his vocation. That was not uncommon.
I just finished the classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. There is so much packed into this little book; I’ll just touch on a couple important points. Frankl made a very convincing case for “tragic optimism”. Or very simply, “what matters is to make the best of any given situation”. Much of his service during World War II was spent as a prisoner in Auschwitz. Through all depravation of the body, he realized that his life still had meaning. Meaning through suffering. For in life, suffering is always a component.
That brings me to Memorial Day 2020. We listen to the news; full of stories of the suffering of those contracting the virus, and their loved ones. But the news is also full of all those who serve: medical personnel, those in the armed services, individuals providing food and other needs to all of us. And it is full of stories of hope.
Service, whether through a war or a pandemic, is a high calling. Jesus called all of us to service for good. In 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6, Paul tells us that “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”
Perhaps Memorial Day 2020 can be full of this “tragic optimism” and bring discussions of how we can better serve those around us in a concrete way, thereby serving our Lord as we make our way through this pandemic.
Lord, help us today be thankful for all those who served our country in the past and for those serving us in the present. Help us discern our gifts in order to serve those we can through this difficult time. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.