Friday, July 10, 2020

HOMILY – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Desmond Doss

We’re back in Ordinary time. But this weekend’s message from Jesus is anything, but ordinary. In fact, it is quite extraordinary.

And in his message is a call for us to live extraordinary lives of faith in him. Not ordinary lives. Extraordinary lives where we pick up our crosses and follow him.
But first we must ask ourselves these questions:
What obstacles stand between me and Jesus?
What barriers are blocking me from living my life as a missionary disciple of Christ?
What blocks me from saying “yes” to Jesus’ way of love?
Today Jesus is talking to his disciples about what they will encounter on their mission to spread the Gospel. Especially what resistance will come their way.
Jesus knows family ties are the ties that bind. These ties are strong and can influence us not to follow Jesus, not to risk one’s life, not to carry one’s cross.
Jesus wants us to pay attention to these obstacles, these barriers, these blocks in our lives and work to not let them get in the way of our mission to serve him and the Kingdom.
 The reality is that many early Christians were rejected by their families for following Jesus. Not every mother, father, sister or brother thought it was a good idea for their loved one to risk life and limb to follow the way of Christ.
For us to be loyal disciples, we must put Jesus first in our lives and let everything else flow from that relationship.
This creates the peace that flows from Jesus. But this is not an easy peace. To commit one’s life to Christ can be threatening to some because it challenges personal values and presumptions, forcing us to make a choice that is not always easy.
I’m reminded of a story about someone who risked life and limb for the Kingdom. His name was Desmond Doss.

Desmond Doss faced that rejection and persecution.  The Lynchburg, Virginia native was motivated to serve his country after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
Problem was, as a devout Seventh Day Adventist, he refused to touch a gun. Instead, he wanted to serve his country as a medic.
His father was a World War One veteran and pleaded with his son not to enlist. His mother also begged him to not sign up.
From the day he reported for duty, his life was a living hell.
“While Doss viewed himself not as a conscientious objector, but a ‘conscientious cooperator,’ his fellow infantrymen and superiors did not see it that way. When he arrived for basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., he quickly became an outcast from the rest of the recruits. His slight stature and shyness did not improve the situation, and many soldiers believed he would be a major liability in battle.”   
His nickname was “the coward” and he faced regular beatings from his fellow enlisted men and verbal taunting from his commanding officers and drill sergeant.  The goal was to wash him out of boot camp.  And everyone was joining in.
As Private Doss said during his lifetime, “I wanted to be like Christ in saving life instead of taking life.” That was the reason he wanted to join the Army Medical Corp.
Private Doss endured the torturous bootcamp experience and eventually made it to the field of battle as a medic on Okinawa. It was the site of what was considered the second bloodiest conflict in World War Two.  The first being D-Day.
It was April 1945, and war with Japan was at a critical turning point.  Okinawa would be the final test to determine who would win the war.
The object of Private Doss and his 307th Infantry, 77th Division was the hellish Maeda Escarpment, a battlefield located on top of a sheer 400-foot cliff. The site became known as Hacksaw Ridge.  

A treacherous rope ladder was the only way up the sheer cliff.
The Americans stormed the ridge and took the escarpment for less than a day. The next morning the Japanese emerged from the catacomb tunnels and drove the U.S. soldiers off the escarpment and back down the rope ladder.
Hundreds of wounded were left behind.  Private Doss was faced with a brutal decision, abandon the ridge or risk lose his life saving his fellow servicemen. He chose the latter and reentered the field of battle searching for the lost and wounded.
When he would find a soldier alive, he would take him back to edge of the cliff and hoist him down with using ropes.
Each time he would save a man’s life, he would pray out loud, “Lord, please help me get one more.  Help me get one more.”  This went on all day and all night.
In the end, Private Doss saved 75 men before saving himself.
The men who persecuted Private Doss were now in awe of him. Many had his heroics to thank for their lives.
His commanding officer said he had misjudged Doss and wondered if the private could ever forgive him.  For years after the war, the captain would blink back tears telling Doss’ story.
Eventually, the Americans tried to take the Ridge again.  As they waited to climb the wall on the Sabbath Day, a radio call broke the silence before the assault with a General asking, “Why haven’t you started climbing the ridge?”  The Captain’s answer was curt, “We’re waiting for Private Doss” who was finishing his prayers.

 Hacksaw Ridge was eventually taken, and as we know, the Japanese were defeated a few months later.
Doss was injured during the battle for Hacksaw Ridge and returned home a corporal and became the first conscientious objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.   
President Truman was so excited to meet Corporal Doss he walked right up to him to shake his hand instead of waiting for the soldier to come to him during the awarding ceremony.

Desmond Doss said during his lifetime, “I know who I owe my life to, as well as (that of) my men. That’s why I like to tell this story for the Glory of God because I know from a human standpoint I should not be here.”  
Corporal Doss walked into one of the bloodiest battles of World War II with nothing to protect him but his Bible and his trust in Jesus.  

May we all resist the temptation to choose the easy road of living ordinary lives, and live extraordinary lives for Jesus Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment