Commentary on the Gospel of
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will save it.
While on vacation, I accidentally caught a Boston College football game where fans were wearing or waving red bandanas saying “Welles.” I had no idea who he was but the announcer said something about Welles epitomizing BC values such as “men and women for others.”
Jesuit speak! It’s not something you expect from a football commentator. This Welles guy was worth Googling.
Indeed he was! On 9-11, BC alum and lacrosse player Welles Crowther, who was an equities trader working in the Twin Towers, made several trips back into one of the towers to rescue at least a dozen people. He was killed when the tower collapsed on his final rescue trip into the building. The people he saved recalled his red bandana that is now displayed at the 9-11 memorial. The documentary film, “Man in a Red Bandana,” salutes his heroism.
Welles Crowther, who was only 24 when he died, could have preserved his earthly life but instead he saved it eternally by losing it to serve others, the powerful message of today’s gospel from Luke.
Very few of us will ever have to make such a heroic choice but we can learn from those who did. Jesus is telling all of us to find ways to die to ourselves in order to gain eternal life.
Today’s gospel also reminds us that we believe that death does not end life but merely transforms it. On All Saints Day we recall that we are members of the Communion of Saints linking people in time and eternity.
Advent is the perfect time to look at our lives from 30,000 feet, asking how well we are doing this. The Prayer of St. Francis resonates in this effort because it focuses on the issues Jesus raises in today’s Gospel, especially the lines “for it is in giving that we receive” and “it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Try meditating on it in companionship with today’s gospel and think of a quiet way you can die to yourself as Welles Crowther did so nobly. I’m really glad my brother-in-law was watching BC clobber Florida State.