Monday, February 9, 2015

"See how they love one another."

Around 200AD, Tertullian wrote the following quote as an expression of the astonishment the pagans of the day had when they witnessed the love and caring among the Christians: "See how they love one another." The early Christians' love for each other went far beyond pious sentimentality. Their love was tangible and practical: they took care of the sick, the widows, the orphans and the strangers both materially and spiritually. Those who witnessed their love could not help but be moved by what they saw. The good news is that this type of Christian love has not been relegated to the history books, but exists today and its ability to profoundly influence everyone who sees it is just as powerful as ever.


This past month I have been deeply touched by the story of  Paul and Ann Coakley.  Their witness of faith and trust in the Lord despite the nearly unbearable circumstances of Paul's diagnosis and rapid death from cancer at the young age of 34, leaving behind his pregnant wife and three small children, is extraordinary.  I do not know this couple, but came across their story through others associated with Franciscan University of Steubenville. I can honestly say that I have rarely, if ever, witnessed such steadfast faith in the goodness of God or such an inspiring demonstration of Christian love.

Coakley Family: Photo from Team Paul and Ann Coakley FB page

One Facebook entry struck me in particular - just a few days before Paul's passing, his wife wrote: "Paul here is a victory. Paul in heaven is a victory. In Christ we can't lose." Her words have echoed in my mind - "In Christ we can't lose." Those words are not easy to say. They are even more difficult to live out in times of intense suffering and pain. Yet, the witness of this family and the brothers and sisters in Christ who have rallied around them with spiritual, emotional and material support  demonstrate the truth in Ann's statement - "In Christ we can't lose." The circumstances of Good Friday indeed looked dire and insurmountable - but Easter came 2000+ years ago and the power of the Resurrection is available to us today.  The Coakley Family's story is evidence of this power.

Thank you Paul and Ann Coakley for your witness to the grace available in the Sacrament of Marriage, for your faith in the Lord, and for your humility in allowing complete strangers like me to witness your story - all for God's glory. 

Thank you to all the brothers and sisters in Christ who have worked tirelessly to support this family and literally build their house from the ground up. May your witness of self-sacrificing Christian love shine forth like a beacon of light, encouraging those who dwell in darkness and hopelessness that God's love is alive and well in his Church! 

If you are struggling with faith and trust in God, or seeing more sin and division in your Christian community than love, I encourage you to visit Team Paul and Ann Coakley's Facebook page and the website #LiveLikePaul "see how those Christians love one another."

There is a fund available to help support the Coakley family financially.  Click here for more information or to make a donation. God will never be outdone in generosity!
 
#prayforuspaul

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