Memorial Day 

Today’s readings: Isaiah 32:15-18, Philippians 4:6-9, Matthew 5:1-12a

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. This continues to be the main focus of Memorial Day but this day has also become a time to remember not just those who died in war, but also all of our loved ones who have died. It is above all a time to remember.

One of the aspects of human nature is that we tend to look for heroes. People we can look up to, who have buoyed our spirits in difficult times, who have turned our attention to the best parts of our humanity. These are the people we wish to emulate, the people who bring us hope in a darkened world. These heroes may be our loved ones or people in our communities who have done great things. People who have sacrificed for the good of others.

On this day we especially look to those who have been heroes in war. People who have given their lives for peace, justice, and righteousness. The beatitudes that we just heard in the Gospel proclaim them blessed: blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. We have heard these before, but it’s so important that we hear that these people are blessed, these people are true heroes because of what they sacrifice and stand for and fight for.

I want to be careful not to glorify warfare. I think 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. And I think that very many war heroes would caution us not to do that. But I certainly acknowledge that there are and have been times in our nation’s history that have called on good people to fight for our freedoms and to fight for justice. Today we honor their memory with immense gratitude, because without their sacrifice we might not enjoy the blessings we have today.

Those who have been part of our lives, and the life of our country, who have been people of faith and integrity are the heroes that God has given us. These are the ones who have been poor in spirit, who have mourned, who have been meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, peacemaking, and all the rest. 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.

Memorial Day

Readings: Isaiah 32:15-18 | Psalm 72 | Matthew 5:1-12a
Mass of Peace and Justice

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 these days, 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, righteousness, and freedom. These have been people who have given everything, have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

On this day, I think it would be a mistake to glorify warfare. I don’t think that is the point of this day, or is even 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 may not 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.

Memorial Day

Today’s readings: James 3:13-18; Psalm 72; Matthew 5:38-48

I was talking to one of our parishioners today who is on a local board that, among other things, hires police officers for their municipality. He was telling me how hard it is to find qualified people willing to serve these days. I wasn’t surprised to hear it. I’ve read a lot over the last several years about how people are not going into service-related professions any more. The priesthood is, of course, no stranger to that phenomenon.

So maybe it’s a little ironic that we spend today honoring those who have given their lives in service to our country. It’s a little like we’re saying “thanks for doing that, but please don’t ask me to serve.” And our Lord would admonish us for that kind of societal attitude; he didn’t give us the Gospel so that we could do nothing about it.

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear the famous “but I say to you” sayings of Jesus. He takes very familiar religious practices of his day, and then cranks them up a notch. Believers are not supposed to be on autopilot; we are supposed to sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of others. If we’re asked to give, we have to do it expecting nothing in return. When we love, we are called to do it when it is completely inconvenient, and toward those who we might not prefer to love.

Service is not optional for the Christian disciple. Laying down our lives is simply doing what our Lord has shown us how to do. If he could die on the cross for us, we can die to ourselves and give our lives in service to others, so they might know God’s love and mercy.

We truly honor today those who have given their lives for our country. Without their sacrifice, we might not have the freedoms we enjoy today. If we would truly honor their service and their selflessness, then we have to set aside our selfish ambitions as Saint James encourages us in our first reading. To truly honor our fallen heroes, we have to make use of the freedom that they fought for in a way that frees others as well.

Most of all, we have to work to change the attitude of our society. We have to earnestly set aside selfish ambition and entitlement or become a society that is not truly free. If we’re slaves to ambition, then we will accomplish little individually or as a society. We have to pray for religious vocations and also vocations of service to our country and community. We have to encourage our children and grandchildren to give of themselves in their profession. That is what will make us truly free.

And that is what would honor our fallen service men and women most of all.

Memorial Day

Today’s readings: Isaiah 32:15-18, Philippians 4:6-9, Matthew 5:1-12a

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.  Today is, above all, a time to remember.

One of the aspects of human nature is that we tend to look for heroes.  People we can look up to, who have buoyed our spirits in difficult times, who have turned our attention to the best parts of our humanity.  These are the people we wish to emulate, the people who bring us hope in a darkened world.  The problem is, the heroes our popular culture would give us tend to be pretty unworthy of the title.  How many political heroes have turned out to be corrupt?  How many great athletes have given in to drug abuse?  How many entertainers have done horrible things to people close to them?  We need true heroes on this day, and every day.

Maybe the ones we should look to are not people who are great from afar like all those other flawed characters of popular culture.  Maybe we should look a bit closer, to loved ones or people in our communities who have done great things.  People who have sacrificed for the good of others.

On this day we especially look to those who have been heroes in war.  People who have given their lives for peace, justice, and righteousness.  The beatitudes that we just heard in the Gospel proclaim them blessed: blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.  We have heard these before, but it’s so important that we hear that these people are blessed, these people are true heroes because of what they sacrifice and stand for and fight for.

I am hardly the person who is going to glorify warfare.  I think 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 I certainly acknowledge that there are and have been times in our nation’s history that have called on good people to fight for our freedoms and to fight for justice.  Today we honor their memory with immense gratitude, because without their sacrifice we might not enjoy the blessings we have today.

Those who have been part of our lives, and the life of our country, who have been people of faith and integrity are the heroes that God has given us.  These are the ones who have been poor in spirit, who have mourned, who have been meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, peacemaking, and all the rest.  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.

Memorial Day

Today’s readings.

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.

Saint Petronille, Virgin and Martyr

Today’s Gospel: Luke 9:23-26

Saint Petronille could have had everything.  Pursued by her suitor Count Flaccus, she could have lived a very comfortable life that maybe she would have seen as a just reward for her years of service.  Whether she was Saint Peter’s daughter as one legend tells us, or a spiritual daughter and manager of his household which another legend argues, she was certainly a servant of the Lord in the house of Saint Peter.  One might think she would be well rewarded to marry Flaccus and live that comfortable life after all she had done for Saint Peter.

But Petronille knew better than that.  She seems to have been well versed in today’s Gospel reading.  She knew that even if she were to gain the whole world by being the wife of Flaccus, she would be forfeiting herself.  She must have known that she would be forced to make the decision that confronted her friends Felicula and Saint Nicodemus: sacrifice to the idols and live, or stick to Christian ways and die.  But all three of them saw that choice differently than Flaccus and the Romans would present it.  For Petronille, Felicula and Nicodemus, sacrificing to the idols would be no life at all.

We don’t know much about Saint Petronille’s martyrdom.  All we are told is that after three days of fasting, prayer and reception of Holy Communion, she “migrated to the Lord.”  After three days – the perfect time, and in many ways for her, a lifetime of prayer and service – she received the reward that we all must hope for.  Whatever the details are, we know that her life and her death inspired others to live and die for Christ.  Her companion Felicula, and even Nicodemus – perhaps the same Nicodemus who first came to Jesus at night – were inspired by Petronille to give their lives rather than sacrifice to the Roman gods.

Her life and death then, can be inspiration for us too.  As we live our lives, we will be tempted by many comforts that would consequently take us out of service to Christ.  We will be tempted to sacrifice to the idols of this world, rather than to take the hard road and follow the Lord.  But we must remember, as Saint Petronille did, that “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [the sake of Christ] will save it.”  We have to see in Saint Petronille the firm conviction that this life’s treasures mean nothing if they take us away from eternal life with Christ, which is the greatest treasure of all.

That’s a wonderful message on this Memorial Day, isn’t it?  Just like Saint Petronille, many of our friends and family have given their lives in the service of something greater than themselves.  For them it was country and freedom, just as for the virgin martyrs like Petronille it was Christ.  We are grateful to all of these men and women, saints and ordinary soldiers, for the blessings we have as a result of their sacrifice.

You see, Saint Petronille really did have it all.  She just knew it wasn’t coming in this passing life.  She knew that she would indeed be well rewarded, and live a comfortable life in marriage – only that marriage was to Christ himself.  Let us see in Saint Petronille that we too must deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow Christ.