Thursday, May 29, 2014

Homily for Memorial Day, Monday, 6th Week of Easter

Homily for Memorial Day
Monday of 6th Week of Easter
May 26, 2006
John 15: 26—16: 4a
St. Gabriel’s Church, New Rochelle

For a small group of immigrant working people, all with English as 2d language (at best) at an evening Mass.

I suppose that most of you know that in the U.S. today we’ve been celebrating something called Memorial Day.  You may not be entirely sure what that means.  Don’t worry—a lot of Americans don’t know either!

This day was instituted almost as an American holy day after the American Civil War in the 1860s.  It was meant to honor, to commemorate, to remember, to memorialize those who had sacrificed their lives to preserve the American Union in the war that prevented the slave-owners of our Southern states from breaking away and making their own country.

In his famous Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln pretty much defined what the Civil War was about.  He called the United States, as founded in 1776, “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  He called the Civil War a great contest about those ideas—liberty and equality for all people.

Eventually, Memorial Day has become a day to honor and remember all the men and women who have given their lives on behalf of the United States, from the Revolutionary War in the 18th century up to the war we are still fighting against the enemies of freedom and of equality for all people—against people who destroy skyscrapers and kidnap schoolgirls.

As Catholics, we pray today for 2 things.  The 1st is for the eternal rest, for a heavenly reward from our Lord Jesus, for all who have died in our wars—for all, whichever side they were on, because Jesus came as the Savior of everyone!  The 2d is for an end to war; for peace; for equality, justice, and freedom for everyone without regard to nationality, religion, race, gender, or any other quality.

In our gospel reading this evening, from Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples that he’ll give them an Advocate, the Spirit of truth, to testify to himself, i.e., to Jesus (John 15:26).  The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus and the Father will send to the disciples—to the Church—will teach them the truth about Jesus:  in the 1st century and in every century, right up to our own time.  In a few days we’ll be celebrating Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit upon the Church.  We believe that the Spirit always remains with the Church, as Jesus said in yesterday’s gospel:  “he remains with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).  This Spirit helps the Church to understand the teaching of Jesus and to continue to teach what Jesus taught, or to teach the truth in our own age even on matters that people in the 1st century never imagined.

Jesus continues:  “You also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (15:27).  Have we been with Jesus from the beginning?  Not in a literal, historical sense; of course not!  We’re not 2,000 years old!  But we belong to Jesus’ Church, and she has been with him from the beginning!  When the apostles wanted to choose a new apostle, one to replace Judas, they looked for a disciple who had been with Jesus “the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us” and who would “become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).  That is the Church, continuing to “testify to” Jesus, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

And you, my brothers and sisters, are part of this Church.  You, also, testify to Jesus:  to his teaching and to his resurrection.  How?  By how you live!  By your religious faithfulness; by your faithfulness in marriage; by your love for your children and your parents; by your honesty; by your kindness; by your care for those who are less fortunate than you are; and in other ways, day by day.  That is how you, too, filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus that you received in Baptism and Confirmation, testify that Jesus is alive, that his teachings are true and life-giving, that Jesus leads us to lives of true freedom and real equality.

God bless you!
Arlington National Cemetery, looking toward the U.S. Capitol

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