“Hacksaw Ridge” is a recently released powerful film based on the true story of Desmond Doss and his deployment in the Pacific theater in World War II. What made Doss’ situation especially unique was, that because of his religious beliefs, he asked not to carry a weapon onto the battlefield. This put Doss in a very peculiar position, both with his fellow soldiers and his commanders. Despite the ridicule that he faced along the way, Doss, who had enlisted, was sent onto the battlefield as a medic without any weapon to defend himself. The climax of the movie takes place during the battle of Okinawa, where the American soldiers were tasked with the responsibility of scaling a 400-foot cliff nicknamed Hacksaw Ridge.
The top of the cliff was heavily fortified by Japanese soldiers and casualties were heavy. In the midst of the destruction, Doss repeatedly ran into the midst of the danger zone carrying wounded soldiers back to the edge of the cliff and singlehandedly lowering them down to safety. It was estimated that during the night, Doss saved more than 50 soldiers. The movie shows Doss praying “Lord, please help me get one more,” after each soldier he lowered to safety.
The movie gives a graphic depiction of the horror of war. At one point, Doss covers a soldier in dirt to hide him from the enemy, and then says, “You’ll have to trust me.” It’s gut-wrenching to think about the many soldiers who were left on the battlefield wondering if anyone was going to come back for them. The triumph was that even in the midst of the worst of scenarios, Doss did not forget them.
The Ascension of the Lord is traditionally remembered each time we pray the glorious mysteries of the rosary.
To meditate on the moment of Jesus re-entering heaven and taking his throne at the right hand of the Father is awe-inspiring. However, at the same time, there’s a bit of sadness. The apostles had to have asked him why he couldn’t just stay with them longer. They had to have asked the question within their own hearts, “Is he really going to come back for us?” It’s within this context that Jesus tells the apostles, not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you heard me speak” (Acts 1:4).
Many times in our own lives, we might find ourselves backed into a corner, perhaps feeling like we are in a hopeless situation. We may be asking ourselves if Jesus Christ is going to come back for us or those we love? We look for any sign of hope that Jesus Christ has indeed heard our prayer and will send the promised Holy Spirit.
In these situations of waiting, turn to Jesus’ mother Mary. It’s reasonable to believe that the reason Jesus left his mother behind was because he knew that he could trust her. All the other apostles, with the exception of John, had left Jesus on the road to Calvary. John and Mary waited and suffered with Jesus. They did not run from the battle of the cross. Jesus left Mary to wait with the apostles in the upper room because he knew that she would never let him down. She would not run away from his commands, and she could be trusted to execute the mission of not allowing the apostles to run from his commands, but instead to wait for the Holy Spirit. Having received the Holy Spirit within her womb at the Annunciation, she would watch over the Church as it was poured out a second time over the Apostles at Pentecost.
The virtue of patience to wait for the Holy Spirit is so needed in our world. Is there any other devotion that takes more discipline and patience to pray than the rosary? Jesus gives us the rosary as a lifeline linking us to heaven. Will we grab hold of it? There are those around us who are wounded, who feel defeated. Will we come to their rescue through prayer and action? Will we have courage to stand by them and wait, or will we run?
(Fr. Widder is pastor of St. Clement and Holy Name of Jesus parishes, Sheboygan.)