“The Sniper,” is a story about the Irish civil war, written by Liam O’Flaherty.
At nightfall in Dublin, heavy guns and small arms boomed and cracked intermittently near the River Liffey. From a rooftop near O’Connell Bridge, a Republican sniper with fanatical eyes observed the scene while eating a sandwich and swigging whiskey.
When an armoured car pulled up fifty yards ahead, he did not shoot at it, realizing that bullets would not pierce heavy armour. An old woman stopped to inform the car’s turret gunner of the position of the sniper. When the gunner emerged from his dome, the sniper killed him, then the woman.
Gunfire from the opposite roof then wounded the sniper in the arm. He dropped his rifle as blood oozed from his wound. If he tried to get off the roof, he would be an easy target for the gunman across. A plan occurred to him. Placing his hat on the muzzle of his rifle, he poked the barrel over the roof parapet. A bullet zings through the hat. The sniper tilted the weapon so that the hat fell onto the street. Then he hung his left hand limply over the roof. A moment later, he dropped the rifle to the street and slumped to the roof, dragging his hand back over the parapet.
After crawling to a new position, he peeked out and saw his enemy standing up and looking across, apparently believing he killed the IRA man. The latter brought his revolver into position, held his breath, and fired. The enemy reeled on the roof, dropped his rifle to the street, and fell to the pavement.
On the quiet street, he was curious about the other sniper, who was a very good shot. Who was he? Could he have been a member of his own company before the army split into rival factions? He decided to have a look at the man. When he dashed across, a machine gun opened fire but missed him. He dropped to the pavement next to the body as the gunfire ceased. When he turned over the body, he saw the face of his brother.
In today’ Gospel Jesus gives us the message, to be truly religious is to love God and to love the man whom God created in his own image; and to love God and man, with that total commitment which issues in devotion to God and practical service to man.
In a few words Jesus laid down the complete definition of religion. Religion consists in loving God, and man. The first verse that Jesus quoted was part of the Shema, the basic and essential creed of Judaism. This is the sentence with which every Jewish service still opens, and the first text which every Jewish child commits to memory. It means that to God we must give a total love, a love which dominates our emotions, a love which directs our thoughts, a love that determines our emotions, and a love which is the dynamic of our actions. In short a total commitment to God. The natural outcome of such a commitment will be the second commandment. “Love your neighbour.” When we love God man becomes lovable.
But the sad, fundamentally simple word that defines the majority of humanity is “if”. When comes to tolerating our siblings, our neighbours or our co-workers we put an “if”, if only he did not do that, if only he did not say that, if only he did not behave like that…..indefinitely goes on our excuses. We take comfort in the excuse “If only things had been different, and if only people had been different.” But things do not need to be different. People do not need to be different. But we need to be different. There is an old African saying: A lion gets up every day in Africa running, knowing that he must run faster than the slowest antelope he is about to meet or he goes hungry and he dies. And every antelope gets up in the morning everyday saying, “I have to be faster than the fastest lion I am about to meet or I die.”
When we know what we need to do, when we are able to listen our conscience, When we dare to act as our mind tell us, we will forget all the “If” and the love of God and devotion to God will issue forth in practical service to man. But today, all the knowledge is used to annihilate man; all the resources are used for destructive purposes rather than for constructive purposes. Researches are being held as how to fight against our own blood. The sniper used great intelligence and planning to shoot down the one who was seen across. But, ultimately, all his planning was to annihilate his own blood.
In our houses we plot against our neighbours, in the presence of our children. We speak ill of our neighbours in their presence. We blame one another in their presence. They grow up seeing our wickedness and being part of our evil designs. Therefore, there is no wonder if our children lose the tenderness and sensibility to sympathize with others.
Both the commandments “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart,” and “You must love your neighbour as yourself” have great social implications. They should be made visible to others through simple acts of kindness. Eva Gregory says, “Even the simplest form of kind acts can have the most profound effects on someone in need.”
Let us keep in mind the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”