Memorial Day Mass :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Memorial Day Mass
By Bishop Samuel J. Aquila

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary

War reminds us to be people who work for peace.

Today, as we gather to honor our dead, we are reminded of the gift of eternal life that our God has promised to us, His people. He gives to us the promise in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s intent for all of us is to live with Him forever in heaven. That is His divine will and we are free to choose and to embrace His will, to say "yes" to it or to say "no" to it. We especially honor today those who have died in war, those who have fought for our freedoms as Americans. We know, too, that war is never pleasant, that in the midst of war, even when it is a just war, evil is present.

One day I can remember speaking with one of my uncles. All four of my mother’s brothers fought in World War II. All four of them came back home alive. One of them, though, was a prisoner of war for three-and-a-half years in Japan. He was in the Baton March, and he was one of the few who survived that march. He rarely spoke of the war. I asked him one time, when I was in college, what it was like. At that time the Vietnam War was going on. There were all sorts of questions around that war, so I wanted to know what it was like in World War II.

The gist of what he said was, "There is no glory in war. No matter how just the cause may be, war is always horrific, even when you are trying to battle evil and you are on the side of good. To kill another human being is never easy. To hold a fallen comrade in your arms is never easy. There is always a darkness to war."

War should always remind us of the call the Lord gives to us in the Gospel, to be people who work for peace, to be people who work for the right ordering of society, for the ordering of society according to the plan of God, not according to the plan of man. The only way that there will ever be peace within our world is if all peoples are converted to the message of Jesus Christ, if our hearts and minds are transformed to live our lives according to God’s plan and not our plans. We must constantly propose the truth of the Gospel to the world, inviting them to come to know Jesus Christ. When we honor the dead and those who have gone before us, we, too, remember the tremendous sacrifices they have made. We remember how many of them have been scarred for life whether physically or emotionally.

In any war, the Evil One always has a field day. You can see that even in the war in Iraq. The Evil One is the winner in any war, even when good succeeds. We, as a people, are called to conversion. We are called to recognize the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst even in the dark times of war. We are called to reconciliation after war so that the grace of Jesus Christ may bring true healing and peace.

In today’s Gospel reading for the Feast of the Visitation, Elizabeth recognized the presence of Christ in her midst even though He was in His mother’s womb. "When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’"

My sisters and brothers, we as a people of faith are called, like Elizabeth, to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Our God promises that gift to us in Baptism and Confirmation. We are called to recognize the presence of Christ in our midst and to proclaim His presence. We are called to call others to know Jesus Christ so that they may be set free from sin and evil.

In the culture wars of today we must remember the greatest evil that exists in our society. The greatest war that goes on every day is the war against unborn children. On this Feast of the Visitation, we would be remiss as Catholics if we did not remember the unborn child and the 4,000 lives that are lost every day. Because we do not see their death visibly, many of us are silent about it. It is the most serious, the most grave, the most violent of wars, for it takes the lives of innocent human beings and destroys them before they are born.

My sisters and brothers, we must ponder in our hearts, "What would Jesus Christ do in the midst of the world in which we live today?" Jesus Christ would stand for a culture of life. He would call us to conversion and repentance. He would call us to be faithful to the Gospel. He speaks to us still, "I came that you might have life and life abundantly. I am the way, the truth and the life." Life is Jesus' gift to us.

As we continue with the Eucharist this morning, let us ask the Lord to fill our hearts and minds with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask Him to stir into flames the gifts He has given to us in Baptism and in Confirmation. Let us pray that we as a people may continually grow in obedience, as Mary was obedient to the will of the Father. Let us pray that we may always have the courage to speak the truth, to work for peace, and to work for true justice. Justice is always the ordering of society according to God’s plan.

As we remember our dead and hold them up to the Lord, let us ask the Lord to give us a deeper faith in the truth that has been proclaimed in His Son, Jesus Christ. May we, like Elizabeth, recognize the presence of our Lord in our midst and may our lives be conformed to His truth.

Printed with permission from the Diocese of Fargo.

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