I have to say that it could have been a bit easier to forget that ANZAC day on this year, as there was no associated public holiday in New Zealand given that it fell on a Sunday.
But we did not forget, and actually I was more aware of the occasion this year than most. I’m not sure why, to be honest. I just seemed to notice more poppies pinned to people’s shirts, more men and women in uniform walking to and from various commemorative services – it just felt more ANZACy than usual…which is strange, given there was no day off to prompt one’s recall.
A visiting priest at our parish gave a very good homily on the subject. He spoke about how war is a terrible thing (and it is) and that people all over the world are suffering from the horrors of it (and they are). He also spoke about how those men who gave their lives in the World Wars and other conflicts were doing so because they felt called to stand up against a perceived evil. They were not going to back down, or disappear, or allow that evil to take over and win. And I find that courageous and heroic.
I don’t want this post to kick off yet another re-litigation of the “Just War” concept, so I’m trying to steer clear. But I will say this – for all those who find it difficult to digest the killing of a fellow human being under any circumstances, let me just say that I’m with you. I can’t grasp the concept…and I pray that I never have to! Our priest spoke of how his father served in wartime, but never spoke of what he had to do as a soldier. And that it wasn’t until much later that our priest realised that his own father probably had killed some other men in war.
That concept is just so foreign to me, but the irony is that this is, in part, because of the sacrifice made by the ANZACs. I mean, our peace was bought by their blood, right? That’s some pretty humbling stuff.
By the way, for those who are interested in the Sixth Commandment conflict here, I’ve recently done a bit of reading on this and I suggest you do too. The Commandment actually translates to “thou shalt not murder”, not “kill”. The word in Hebrew – “ratsach” – means to kill or slay in a predatory or pre-meditated way. In other words, murder or manslaughter. Not war (excluding war crimes), or capital punishment for that matter. But I digress…dangerously close to the Just War line too…
Our priest also talked about yesterday being Good Shepherd Sunday – the day we remember our priests – and he pointedly referred to how difficult it is to look at priests in a good light right now with all the media coverage at the moment on the abuse scandals. But he also pointed out that there are literally thousands of good men who haven’t broken their vows and who have given their lives to the Church and to us. They visit the sick, help the needy, share our joys and our sorrows – and keep us focused on God.
Both categories of men have made sacrifices. For me. And sometimes I take that for granted. Maybe we all do. And we shouldn’t.
I guess…I just wanted to say thank you.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.