Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Remembrance Day, 11.11.2006

Today we stand in silence to remember. We remember the sacrifice of life of so many men and women in defence of our country, our freedom and our way of life. They gave their all for us and we give thanks for them. We pray for them, and for all victims of wars, and we pray for their families and friends, all who survive them. Our annual remembrance is no glorification of war. Rather a sad remembrance of those who have been taken from us in war. We shall always remember them.

But what of the country they have left behind? At present it seems to be in quite a mess.

During this past week we have seen how the people of the United States have expressed their opinion of their own administration in the conduct of affairs in Iraq. President Bush called it a “thumping”. To the extent that we are identified with the United States in Iraq, maybe we too share in that thumping over a futile and mistaken war, and for the too many people who have died.

It was the week also when Dame Eliza Manningham-Butler, head of MI5, gave an insight into the depth of the current threat of terrorism in our country. She told us of 30 known plots of terror, of 200 terrorist networks and of 1600 people being groomed for terrorist acts. It’s a chilling picture.

Then, close to our own scene, it was the week when our friend Alain Kimolo was returned to Congo, escorted we hear by four guards! As far as we know he is now in detention in Kinshasa.

Against this background we may feel utterly overwhelmed, weak and insignificant, powerless and useless. There seems to be nothing worthwhile that we can do to make this world a better place.

Through today’s Gospel reading, however, Jesus says that is not so.

First he denounces the men of power and pomp, who hide their own insufficiencies behind elaborate forms of dress. He warns his disciples to beware such people who, in the name of religious authority or political power, take advantage of the people they are called to serve.

Then in contrast he praises a poor, insignificant, utterly powerless widow. He who sees everything notices her and her giving. The two small coins she offers, the equivalent of one penny says St. Mark, add virtually nothing to the Temple Fund. In the eyes of the world her gift is worthless. But, and here is the vital message, by the measuring rod of the Kingdom of God, what she has given surpasses the donations of all the others for, as Jesus points out, she had given her all.

It’s strange. That is the same expression we use of those who died in war: they gave their all; no one can ask for more. So too, of the poor widow, no one could possibly ask for more. It may not seem to be much, but it is everything.

So it is for us. Against the backdrop of all the ills of the world, anything we can do seems so limited, futile, meaningless. Why bother trying to make the world a better place? And if we are led to believe there is nothing worthwhile we can do, then we will do just that - nothing.

But today’s Gospel urges us not to be discouraged. We are asked to do simply what we can. Even our smallest and hidden acts in the name of the Kingdom – a word of encouragement here, a gesture of forgiveness there, a little act of kindness, patience or understanding – all are noticed by him who watches and sees everything. All of them are works of the Kingdom and, by the measuring rod of the Kingdom, every one of them is valued. And if that is all one can do, no one can ask for more.

We may not be able to do very much that is noticed by the standards of this world, but that does not prevent us from giving our all. On this day of remembrance can we offer anything less?