This past week we lost one of America's great heroes - Senator John McCain. I have always admired him - from a distance, of course. I loved his nickname 'Maverick'. It does not only tell a story of a man who liked to upend conventional wisdom, follow his own principles and is intuitively dedicated to what he believed was right. He was a man who argued against taking the easy path. That path that is inviting and easy, and for that reason more than a few like to tread on that path. The alternative to the easy path is the more tasking path, the one which requires more than simple platitudes, one that is difficult, yet easy because it simply requires you to reach beyond yourself. Many of the tributes which have poured out by people of all political stripes extolling the character of a man with whom they may have disagreed with, can also attest to his character. It wasn't a flawless character but one that always sought to do what was right. I do not think the suggestion is for us to look at him as a perfect man, far from that. The main drive has been for us to ponder on his character-the one that requires of us to shun the easy path. Many are those who would have taken the deal of a lifetime to leave the horror, destitution, mental and emotional abuse, and the pure torture of life at 'Hanoi Hilton'-the prison where he and other soldiers were kept, and return home to enjoy the blessing of being with family - after all, family is everything. But not so with Senator John McCain. He wouldn't leave his buddies behind. He wouldn't rest his fate on his father's good fortune. He had to chart a different course, not an easy course, if I may add, but a course which rings with deep echoes of his character. He didn't do that for his own self-aggrandizement but for the sake of the fellow soldiers with whom he shared no familial bond but only the bond of love and loyalty to country and to each other. There's a British patriotic hymn, "I Vow To Thee My Country", words of which was penned as a poem by Cecil Spring Rice, a former Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the United States. In the poem, Cecil writes of a kind of loyalty that sums up for me, the life of Senator John McCain.
I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above, Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love. The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best. The love that never falters, the love that pays the price, The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice. And there's another country I've heard of long ago, Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know. We may not count her armies, we may not see her king, Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering. And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase, And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace. In the poem, we read about our dual loyalty; one to the homeland to which we all pledge allegiance as citizens, and the other to God's heavenly kingdom of which we are also citizens by virtue of being joint heirs with Christ. Loyalty to both is seamless and requires of us to never take the easy path. It requires of us to serve a cause far greater than the self-the kind of love that asks no question, the one that pays the price. Truth is, to serve a cause greater than the self hurts a great deal, because love hurts-think about the crucifixion. Love requires so much of us, more than we are ever willing to give or offer. But the fulfilling nature of a loyalty wrapped in love is one that we can never imagine. To the man who appealed to our higher ideals, we owe a great debt of gratitude for teaching us the joy of duty, the love of service, and the loyalty to both God and country. May we also be so strengthened in our resolve to never take the easy path but to always reach out beyond ourselves. Manny.