Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dietrich Bonhoeffer remembered

With everything going on, I almost missed my opportunity to commemorate Dietrich Bonhoeffer today. On 9 April 1945, Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis at Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, which was located near the German-Czech border. His student and best friend, Eberhard Bethge, in his biography of Bonhoeffer, passed along the recollection of the SS doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer's execution:
I saw Pastor ...Bonhoeffer... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christian martyr

As I recalled this event today, these words from the fourth chapter of the First Letter of St. John came to mind: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). To his final moments on this earth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave to witness to this fact: "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

Pastor Bonhoeffer was 39 years old at the time of his death.

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