For the Heart…
In the movie Hacksaw Ridge [spoiler alert] Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who was pacifist and refused to use a gun, served as a medic in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.[i] During one of the key skirmishes, the Japanese forced the Americans to retreat. The wounded Americans left behind would have certainly been killed off. Just before Desmond was about to descend the cliff to safety, he asked God, ‘What do you want me to do?’ The answer came in the form of a cry for help from a wounded soldier. He rescued the soldier. Then he asked God to help him save ‘just one more.’ That night he rescued more than 75 men at great risk to his own life.[ii]
I believe Desmond Doss’ story is illustrative of what it means to be a saint: you give your all.
One of the most common misconceptions about sanctity is that if you are dedicated to God then you are somehow missing out in life. You are prudishly avoiding excitement and adventure because of all the ‘limitations’ Christianity’s moral code places on you: ‘Don’t go to this party.’ ‘Don’t hang out with that crowd.’ To avoid sin you might as well play it safe and stay home.
That is to misunderstand sin, which is ultimately a closing in on oneself. However, closing in on yourself is isolating and boring. We are made for more.
That ‘more’ is sanctity, which is to, ‘love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… [and] your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments’ [Mt 22: 37-40]. To love with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind means to hold nothing back. It means to give your all.
We have all had the experience of doing things half-heartedly. I still remember one day in the fourth grade begrudgingly doing my math homework. Because of my attitude, what I could have done well in fifteen minutes and then gone out to play lasted forty-five minutes. Our laziness, fears and discouragement can keep us from really trying.
Alternately, we have all had the experience of generously serving others and the joy that it brings. There were camps and retreats in which I had worked so hard to serve others that I was truly exhausted by the end of the day. Nevertheless, there was a deep satisfaction. We forgot ourselves and our limitations long enough to love… and it was freeing.
‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.’[iii]
To be a saint means to hold nothing back, to give you all - your mind, your strength, your dreams... all of it. God will not ask less, and less will not satisfy you. God created you to give your all. That is what it means to be a saint; and the Church needs saints: “The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.’’ [iv]
Tackle your particular mission, whatever it may be, confiding in God’s grace and with all the energy you can muster. Give your all, like Desmond Doss. Then you are well on your way to happiness and sanctity.
Posted: November 13, 2018
Fr. John Bullock, LC
[iii] Jn 12: 24. New American Bible, Revised Edition 2011 (Kindle Locations 53481-53482). . Kindle Edition.
[iv] Catechism of the Catholic Church (Kindle Locations 5894-5896). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Kindle Edition, n. 828