We all know what a thankless task it is to intervene in a quarrel not our own or to try to remedy an ill or put right a wrong that does not directly concern us. Usually, we retreat wounded, blaming ourselves for our foolishness or ruefully reflecting on our inability to assess the situation properly. So, why do we bother? We may simply be busy-bodies, convinced of the utter rightness of everything we think or say or do; or we may just be fools, rushing in where angels fear to tread. I think it more likely, however, that we have never been able to brush aside the question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ and therefore have a sense of obligation to act if we see injustice, error or sheer silliness at work. The trouble is, what we see is only part of the whole. That acts as a check on our more stupid interventions but doesn’t, alas, guarantee that we will always act wisely or prudently. Sometimes we need to think carefully about the form our bothering should take.
This morning I found the monastery inbox screaming with complaints about what we have/have not said/done in the Charlie Gard case. I have no intention of answering our critics because the case is very complex and at its heart is one small, very sick child and his parents and a host of medical and legal professionals all doing their best for him. What the community has been doing is praying for everyone involved. We cannot turn aside and say that medically, morally and legally everything is beyond us, so we do nothing; nor can we (unless we are in possession of all the facts and the relevant expertise) assert with any confidence what should be done as though we had an insight everyone else lacked. We can do our best to inform ourselves, but then we need to reflect. We are told that doctors and nurses at Great Ormond Street have been receiving death threats. That does not come from God but from the Evil One. It should concern us greatly because if we truly value life, we will respect it.
So, how should we respond? I think myself that we must just go on praying. If we are not directly involved and have no special expertise to offer, we may complicate matters with ignorant or ill-advised attempts at intervention. On the other hand, we know God likes to be bothered, so I suggest we bother him a lot with our prayer. That is doing something, and something that really counts.