Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
(Sirach 17:20-24; Mark 10:17-27)
In The Red Wheel novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn pictures a young army officer seeking advice from a priest about the morality of war. The officer wonders what Jesus meant when he told his disciples not to resist evil. He asks whether the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy was not correct to interpret the passage as a condemnation of war. The priest responds that there are worse evils than war and that war is the necessary price for living together in a state. On this Memorial Day we might understand the gospel in this light.
When Jesus tells the young man that he must give up everything and follow him to have eternal life, he means of course that the man becomes one of his disciples. But cannot a disciple fight in the army to protect the common good? The army is a great equalizer. Soldiers give up individual privileges to become an effective fighting unit. Often enough they are also called to give up their lives. When they do these things out of love for country, they should indeed be considered as Jesus’ followers.
Today we honor especially those who have died in war. Perhaps some did so reluctantly and maybe some fought for reasons other than love of country. We also pray for them that they may be judged for the good that they did. After all, we hope to be judged ourselves according to the same measure.