Gale Sayers, who played with the Chicago Bears back in the 1960s, ranks among the greatest running back in the history of professional football. Around his neck he always wore a gold medal about the size of a half-dollar. On it were inscribed three words: I am Third.
Those three words became the title of his best-selling auto-biography. The book explains why the words meant so much to Gale. They were the motto of his track coach, Bill Easton, back at the University of Kansas.
Coach Easton kept the words on a little sign on his desk. One day Gale asked him what they meant. Easton replied, “The Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third.” From that day on, Gale made those words his own philosophy of life.
In his second year with the Bears, Gale decided he wanted to wear something meaningful around his neck, like a religious medal. So he bought a gold medal and had the words I Am Third engraved on it. In his autobiography Gale says, “I try to live by the saying on my medal. I don’t always succeed, but having the saying around my neck keeps me from staying from it too far.”
The story of Gale Sayers illustrates the readings as well as celebration of Blue Mass. We are celebrating Blue Mass to honor and pray for all active, retired, and deceased law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personal. We also remember in a special way all those who died on September 11, 2001, all those who did heroic action to save lives and pray for them.
As we remember September 11, 2001, let us try to imagine we were on the ground running to save our lives or running to someone else. What will be our mental and emotional condition? It is hard to explain, isn’t it? It is about call, it is about commitment.
This weekends reading Jesus talks about commitment. He says: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Are we supposed to love or hate? The Lord is not telling us to ignore the Fourth commandment, Honor your father and mother. Nor is He telling us to refuse to see God in others. And He is not telling us to ignore God’s handwork in our own lives. He illustrates the demands of being His disciples. The discipleship demands true commitment to the duties entrusted to us. Maybe we don’t want to leave the security of our home, parents, or comfort of life. The commitment demands sacrifices. We suppose to help one another to face the challenges.
I am almost certain that many of you have stories from your childhood of how you had imagined yourself becoming a police officer, a firefighter, or a medical technician. I remember, when I walk into the daycare, they try to dress-up like policemen, firefighters, doctors or nurses. They like to dress up in the uniforms and act out various make-believe adventures.
Blue Mass is an opportunity to express our gratitude to all those who decide to dress up for our safety, members of the public safety community for their sacrifices and love. As a Price County Law Enforcement Chaplain, I have the privilege to witness many of their sacrifices, and listen to their stories. They are willing to stand between us and all the violence. They’re out there selflessly to serve others. They don’t do it for the honor. We all should say THANK YOU for their commitment!