The week begins with the call to remember the seventy million people who died during the Second World War. The cost and the consequences of this war are felt even today. This war would singularly change the course of global history. Significantly, this week we also celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three children in the village of Fatima in Portugal. Our Lady, through these apparitions, urged people to pray the Rosary for peace and for the end of the First World War, which was raging at that time.

The devastation and the horror of the Second World War taught us in a harsh fashion that events in one part of the world affect people everywhere. We learned then that all things are connected. Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’ and in his recent TED Talk, emphasises this. He reminds us that everything is interconnected, interdependent and ‘each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others’. In southern Africa, this is referred to as ‘Ubuntu’. It is a call to participate in relationships that include everyone. It is a call to bring the other to the fullness of their life through true solidarity.

Pope Francis implores us to recognise the other as gift and to reach out to everyone, especially those cast aside by the contemporary culture of individualism and self-centeredness, with the same compassion that compelled the Good Samaritan to cross the road to bandage the wounds of the fallen man. He says, ‘When one realises that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?’

This week we celebrate the birth of the Buddha on Vesak Day. He was one who called his followers to reach out to others in compassion and tenderness. Pope Francis says, ‘Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.’

Who are those around us who need us to reach out to them? Can my eyes see those in need around me? Can I hear their silent voices? Will my hands reach out to touch them tenderly? Who can I reach out to this week with tenderness and compassion?

Significant Days This Week: Remembrance for Those Who Lost Their Lives During the Second World War (8 and 9 May); Vesak (10 May); Our Lady of Fatima (13 May)

READ: The Noise of Politics – Walter Brueggemann

WATCH: Why the only future worth building includes everyone – Pope Francis

CONSIDER: The Fallen of World War II*

*This is 18 minutes long but it’s well worth your time just to get a sense of the enormity of this war and its fallen across the world.