One of the effects of a presidential election year for me, is taking a long hard look at who we hold up as our leaders or our heroes. In some ways, a presidential election is an emergence of whoever is the least objectionable candidate, because in this day and age, it’s hard to get good people to run for office. And who could blame them? It’s so hard for candidates to deal with all that public scrutiny, the months of campaigning, the financial outlay. It seems sometimes that those willing to go through all of that aren’t exactly the cream of the crop. But apply that to any other field of interest. What about our sports heroes, or entertainers? How many of them turn out to be flawed in many ways? The people we want to hold up as heroes are very often not very heroic.
But today is a day to celebrate true heroes. Memorial Day originally began in our country as an occasion to remember and decorate the graves of the soldiers who died in the Civil War. Later it became a holiday to commemorate all those who had died in war in the service of our country. So today we remember those men and women who have given their lives for peace, justice, and righteousness. These have been people who have given everything, have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Just as Jesus in our Gospel today encourages us all to give everything for the Gospel, these people are true heroes because of their ultimate sacrifice.
On this day, I think it would be a mistake to glorify warfare. I don’t think that is the best way to honor the memories of those who have fallen in war. Our Church’s teachings counsel that war is not the way to peace and that developed societies like ours can and must use our resources to seek other ways to solve problems. But we have to acknowledge that there are and have been times in our nation’s history that have called on people to fight for our freedoms and to fight for justice. Today we honor their memory with immense gratitude, because without their sacrifice we probably wouldn’t be free to worship today.
Our heroes should always include those who have given their lives for justice, righteousness, and the faith. Today, we might call to mind the great martyrs of the Church, those who have shed their own blood that we might have the Gospel. Perhaps they inspired those who have given their lives in service to our country.
Today we pray for those who have been part of our lives, part of the life of our Church, and the life of our country. These are the ones who have been people of faith and integrity and are true heroes that God has given us. These are the ones who have laid down their lives for what is right. If we would honor them on this Memorial Day, we should believe as they have believed, we should live as they have lived, and we should rejoice that their memory points us to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is our hope of eternal life.