Helping while bullets fly


Today, All Saints Sunday, we remember those we love and have died.  Often, they took generous and self-sacrificial care of us.

There is a great story of care for others which is depicted in the current November 2016 movie, “Hacksaw Ridge.”  It is the story of a United States Medal of Honor soldier, Desmond T. Doss.  In the terrible battle of Okinawa in 1945, as a young 26-year old army medic, Doss single-handedly rescued 75 injured soldiers, under direct fire.  He went on to a number of other such amazingly heroic acts of rescue and mercy.


On the other hand, there is a great deal of selfishness in our divided world.  Differences in quality of life may be reflected in vastly differing levels of education, housing, food, health services; and then, consequently, of domestic or civil antagonism and violence.

Gladstone said that selfishness is the greatest curse of the human race (Speech at Hawarden, May 28th, 1890.) William Temple (1880-1944) said, “All systems can be perverted by the selfishness of man” (The Malvern Manifesto). A prime example is that climate change is killing the world.


The only hope, then, is to nurture individual values of sharing.  To share generously is a central value of being a member of the people and the reign of God.

St Cuthbert, along with all the saints of the people of God, reminds us of our calling to be one with all the people of God, and especially the poor.

A modern example is Jean Vanier.  He was a Canadian who founded the L’Arche worldwide of communities for mentally disabled people.  He remarked that Jesus did not say: ‘Blessed are those who care for the poor’, but ‘Blessed are the poor’.  In some mysterious way, when I visit someone who is in prison, who is in hospital, or who is hungry, then I actually touch and feel the grace of God which is present with them.   This is Christ’s example, which Paul quotes in Phil 2:7-8: “Assuming the nature of a slave…he humbled himself, and in obedience accepted even death—death on a cross.”

When we care for others, Luke says the Spirit ‘leaps’ in us (Ps 50:5).   People who have cared for others provide us with the best chapters of Christian and human history. Our prime example is Jesus, whose joy finally came only after he humbled himself to achieve his purpose, in his death and resurrection (Phil 2:9).  After a life of service in Christ’s name (Rev 7:2-4, 9-17), we too can expect that the full measure of our joy will come in the resurrection.

Have we matured beyond selfish toddler attitudes?  Spiritually mature people are generous – they “give and do not count the cost” (Ignatius Loyola), and they care for those who suffer.  In sharing generously, we are not poorer, but we are even more blessed than the one who receives.

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