25 years ago June 4, one lone man stood down the tanks that had rolled into Tieneman Square. This man could have lost his life because of his unwillingness to move. Many men did lose their lives on June 6, 1944. D-Day. It is written that, after he gave the signal to commence the operation, General Eisenhower turned away and wept. Volumes have been written about this bloody, courageous day when evil was confronted – a day that was judged to be the turning point of history. Many words have been used to describe the remarkable gifts of those marines, airmen, sailors and soldiers. Today, I choose one word. Generous. They were generous.
The generous sharing of who we are and what we have is no simple matter. It is a complex thing to know how much to share, how, when and why share life’s treasures at all. Our own generosity affects and sometimes changes drastically the lives of others, including our loved ones.
Take the lone man in Tieneman Square. We don’t remember what happened to him. We do know what happened to a significant number of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy. They stayed, tucked away under white crosses, forever to be a sign to visitors of their remarkable generosity that others might live.
Watching the sundrenched ceremonies from Normandy last Friday, I wondered what these D-Day heroes thought as they went off to confront tanks or howitzers. Did they wonder whether what they shared would be wasted, misused to build religious or political empires rather than the lives of people?
Similar questions tug at our lives when we creatively try to hold seriously the relationship between achievement and responsibility, between pleasure and loyalty, between having and sharing. For those who try to hear the word of God and keep it, Jesus gives examples of generosity – his own as well as the generosity of others, like the poor woman who put in the temple coffers all she possibly could, without knowing how her gift would be used. Her attitude mirrored his.
For followers of the Risen Lord, generosity is a way of life. Some of us are called to give up our very lives for others. Many more of us are called to live our lives so that others may live graciously. Sometimes, generosity calls us “to live in the world, to sanctify the world, to not be afraid of living in the world by our presence in it.” (Pope Francis)
In the face of life, in the face of death, I invite us all to reconsider and re-appropriate the generosity of Jesus and His followers of all time as a way of life.
~Joan Sobala, SSJ