But isn’t that an idea of only minor importance? Doesn’t every human being, no matter which era he lives in, always have to reckon with being accountable to God at any moment? Can I know whether I’ll be alive tomorrow morning?
A bomb could destroy all of us tonight. And then my guilt would not be one bit less than if I perished together with the earth and the stars.”
As you know, I have been commemorating the anniversary of Die Weiße Rose, the Munich Students Movement, and the series of leaflets which they produced and distributed in Nazi Germany as a statement of conscience during the height of the reign of terror.
I do not think it is possible for any one of us to genuinely appreciate the courage it takes to do something like this. And I hope that we never do come to understand such an extraordinary vocation to the same degree. But each one of us is called to act, in our own way, and in our own time.
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘get by.’ The ordinary men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies.
Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, love small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you.
But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”
What is surprising is not that we are called to do so much, but rather, so little. Love and be grateful to God, treat people as you would like to be treated with respect, kindness, and forgiveness. Do not lie or steal or cheat, do not be proud and look down on your fellow creatures, and act with honor and respect for the gifts of His creation. And when we fail through weakness, we are readily forgiven. ‘Can you not watch with me, for even one hour?’
But all too often we bargain away our souls, rebelling from even these slight and reasonable requests– and for so little.