The invisible power of selfless love

Sometimes it takes a desperate situation like a tornado, accident or pandemic before we turn to God.

When life is moving along smoothly, we might overlook the signs of God’s presence in the world. A wren warming itself in the sun, a castle of clouds in the sky and a toddler discovering a flower all point to him.

In “The Little Prince,” the fox shared a secret: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

What are the essentials we can’t see? They include the purpose of our lives, the reason we’re here, the big plan that’s hidden to us. None of these can be detected through the senses, but only through faith, which exists in the heart.

The day-to-day goals of some lives sound ordinary on paper — raising a family, putting food on the table, working overtime to pay bills. Still, these salt-of-the earth people go into immediate action, when there’s an earthquake or tornado. They show up in the middle of the night with hot soup and blankets.

Ordinary heroes rarely get applause, but they keep the wheels of the world turning. Grocery stores stayed open during the lock-downs, because cashiers and stock clerks showed up. Hospitals relied on medical personnel and technicians, who put aside fear and went to work. True, some couldn’t afford to stay home, but others had different motives.

God waits for an invitation into our hearts and won’t force himself on us — and sometimes it takes an emergency before we open the door. If you listen closely, you’ll discover ordinary heroes aren’t embarrassed to say “thank God” and “God willing.” They hold the hand of a dying person and recite a prayer together. They listen to the stories of people, whose lives have been shattered by a storm or an illness, and they offer hope.

At a moment’s notice, a group of passengers on the doomed United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11 turned into heroes, risking their lives to overtake the terrorists. Their tragic deaths showed the world the face of selfless courage.

In 1941, in the death camp at Auschwitz, 10 men were condemned to starve to death following an escape attempt. One desperate man cried out, “My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?” Father Maximilian Kolbe, 47, volunteered to die, saying simply, “I am a Catholic priest from Poland. I would like to take his place because he has a wife and children.”

The man was spared, and Kolbe died with the other men in the starvation bunker. Before he was sent to the camp, Kolbe wrote, “Without sacrifice, there is no love.” Forty years after his death, he was canonized as “The Saint of Auschwitz” — and the deeply grateful man he had saved attended the ceremony.

What prompts someone to willingly die an agonizingly slow death? What moves someone to risk contagion during a pandemic? It’s certainly not something visible to the eye, nor is it new in the history of the world. About 2,000 years ago, a man died on a cross after saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends.” Really, it’s as simple and as complicated as that.

Lorraine’s email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.