Today we have the great honor of celebrating two very important things that happen on this day. We all know it is Memorial Day, the day of honoring and remembering the sacrifice that many men and women made in order to safeguard our freedom. We particularly remember those of them who paid the ultimate price during their service to our nation. But today also happens to be the liturgical feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, having given her fiat – her “yes” – to God, now shows concern for her elder relative, Elizabeth, who is also with child. She goes to visit her in a great act of hospitality, which is one of the virtues Paul admonished the Romans to follow in our first reading today. Perhaps because of her faith and her great concern for Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s own child begins to rejoice in the womb, recognizing his Lord and the great woman who would bring him to human life.
While we don’t have an exact account of what happened at that visit, we do have the Church’s recollection of its spirit, as told through Luke the Evangelist. The whole feeling of this Gospel story is one of great joy, which is perhaps why this is one of the joyful mysteries of the holy Rosary. Both Elizabeth and Mary represent the Church in the telling of the story. Because just as Elizabeth was moved by the faith and generosity of Mary, so the Church continues to be edified by her example of faith and charity. And just as Mary rejoiced in what God was doing in her life, so the Church continues to rejoice at the mighty acts of God in every person, time and place.
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. It’s important that we take time to reflect on the freedom we have received from their sacrifice, because I think we often forget it or at least take it for granted. They lived lives of real freedom, and so must we in our own way. Real freedom is expressed in service, in our making the world, or at least our corner of it, a better place. Real freedom is living in such a way that we become the person God created us to be.
Today we pray for those courageous men and women who have made that ultimate sacrifice to keep the world safe, and free. As we also remember Mary’s act of compassion in the Visitation today, we remember those whose compassion led them to serve our nation. 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.
Today’s Gospel reading ends with the great song called the Magnificat which is Mary’s song of praise to God for the wonders he has done throughout all time, but also in her own life. We too should make that our own song as we continue to be overjoyed by the great acts of God, shepherding us all through our own lives, and intervening in our world and society to bring grace to a world darkened by sin. We, too, can pray with Mary, “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.