This morning’s celebration has us gathering to celebrate two important moments. The first is the Church’s celebration of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and the second, of course, is our nation’s remembrance of Memorial Day.
The Church celebrates the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, each year on the day after Pentecost. It’s a relatively new feast for us, because Pope Francis extended this feast to the Universal Church in 2018. Before that, it had a long history in Poland, and it was Saint John Paul II who commissioned a mosaic of Mary, Mother of the Church, at Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The image of Mary, Mother of the Church, has its origins in the Gospels, and in Sacred Tradition. At the foot of the Cross, Jesus commended Saint John to Mary as his mother, and her to Saint John as her son. The Church has seen this as Mary welcoming all members of the Church in the person of Saint John, and relating to them as mother. This gives strength to the Tradition that since Mary is the Mother of Jesus, the head of the Body, so she is also the mother of the members of that same Body.
Mary also prayed with the disciples in the Upper Room for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, she became the mother of the emerging Church.
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. 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 has Jesus showing us the way for all of this. Giving his own mother to be our mother, the Mother of the Church, he shows that the members of the Church must lay down their lives if the Church is to make an impact in the world. Those who gave their lives in the service of our country did that in their way, and we are called to do that in our way too.