“Be generous with your time, with your love, with your life.” With these parting words to his daughter, Rachel, Doctor Mark Greene prepared for death in his final episode of season eight of the Emmy Award winning television drama “ER.”
In a culture that often encourages us to acquire power, popularity and “things,” the advice of the dying Dr. Greene is particularly poignant. For true happiness and lasting fulfillment come when we learn to bless people from our hearts and praise God for the generous gifts we have received.
While “ER” stayed away from religion most of the time, each episode was nonetheless about how the human heart is illuminated – amid the many moments of life and death and everything in between – toward mercy and hope. The Christian tradition calls this illumination – God’s grace.
“Grace is our participation in the life of God (CCC, 1996).” God’s grace is free, unmerited and ever available to believer and non-believer alike. Grace-filled encounters with God can come through a coworker, a family member, a stranger or an event, and teach us something about our best and worst selves.
For 15 seasons, people around the world tuned in on Thursday nights to watch television portray the divine nature of humanity in conflict with the equally human struggle to accept the grace of divine redemption.
This was the secret of “ER’s” long run and acclaimed success. “ER” was a television drama about the human drama – it was about each one of us and our ongoing struggle to grow into our best selves. It was about human response to God’s gift of grace inviting us to be the people that God dreams us to be.
Each of us leads a life of quiet drama. Few of us are faced with the life and death of an emergency room, yet we struggle between choices that slowly shape and define the person we are becoming. Moved by grace, each of these moments is an invitation to accept divine love and destiny.
Under the influence of grace, we learn to keep the Commandments, to live the beatitudes and to do the truly heroic. Life-giving acts of courage, so frequently seen in each episode of “ER” point to the indwelling of God’s grace in each moment of life. Even amid sin, God’s grace abounds all the more (cf. Romans 5:20).
When we respond to God’s grace and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to leave behind false pride, conceit, selfishness and hate, and generously give our time, love and life to others. In doing so, we begin to detach ourselves from material wealth and reach for the wealth of eternity.
In the series finale of “ER,” Dr. Greene’s daughter makes a return to apply for the same work that her father did eight years before. One wonders how the future Dr. Rachel Greene will find true happiness and lasting fulfillment in the wise and grace-filled words of her father, “be generous with your time, with your love and with your life.”
His words to Rachel, are words for us. How will you be generous with your time, with your love and with your life? How will you accept God’s grace today?
Sharon A. Bogusz is coordinator for evangelization and adult catechesis for the archdiocese of Baltimore.