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Memorial Day 2019

All of you know that I was not born in this country. However, I have been an American citizen for the last fourteen years. A few times a year I feel particularly proud to be an American and Memorial Day is one of those occasions. We just celebrated it a few days ago. I do not believe that any other group of citizens feels greater appreciation and deeper gratitude for those who sacrificed their lives for the country.

 

When we look at all the wars that we have fought, we realize how many tens of thousands of men and women have died to guarantee our freedom. We have lost people in World War I and II, The Korean War, Vietnam, The Gulf War, Afghanistan, Iraq and finally Syria against ISIS. Even today thousands of our troops are ensuring that our land is safe. Our active duty service men and women are stationed in bases inside our nation and around the world. On Memorial Day we celebrate all of them. In order to celebrate this holiday meaningfully, I would like to suggest three things.

First of all, we need to remember. As humans, we have been given the gift of memory. What a beautiful gift it is! Without it, our lives would be insipid and our relations would not last. Memories are the lifeblood of relationships. Unfortunately we hold on to bad memories and lose the good ones. We can lose sight of our military personnel because they are not in our consciousness all the time.

We need to remember them. We need to talk about their sacrifice to our children and young people. In our schools we should teach our children what they have done for us over the years. When we go to Washington DC, we should take the time to visit the national Arlington Cemetery. We need to pray for them and for their families.

Second, we need to thank them. When I am at an airport and I see a man or woman in uniform, I feel the urge to go up and thank them. Unfortunately I don’t do it. They certainly deserve our gratitude. When I do the funeral of a person who had served the country in the armed forces, I am always moved when a soldier presents the flag to the grieving family.

Our gratitude should go beyond that. When I am waiting at a busy intersection and I see a homeless veteran begging, it breaks my heart. How can we abandon these heroes? They put their lives on the line for us. How can we turn our backs on them? In recent years there have been so many controversies regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs. As citizens, we should be outraged when veterans are not adequately cared for and we should express our anger to our lawmakers. Incidentally because of our concern for veterans we donated our Lenten alms to Catholic Charities to help them settle in their homes.

Finally, we need to pray for peace. In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. Not as the world gives I give it to you.” Our world tries to establish uneasy peace by domination and power. We try to develop more and more sophisticated weapons to beat our enemies into subjection. About forty years ago, the nations of the world spent 60 times on a soldier as they did on a teacher. Now the situation is even worse. Nations are also suspicious of each other. That is why we seek ways to eavesdrop on our enemies, finding better ways of espionage. Such tactics do not give us lasting peace.

We need to elect leaders who genuinely seek peace. Such leaders attempt to bring people together. They refuse to sow discord and division. They want authentic dialogue and are open to people who differ from them. We need to educate our citizens to respect each other and to practice the virtue of civility. Our national discourse should become gentler and less divisive. We need leaders who follow the example of Jesus Who laid down His life to reconcile us to the Father. We need to pray for the establishment of a world where we will no longer need soldiers to fight wars.

F B Figgis writes, “If the basis of peace is God, the secret of peace is trust.” Thomas Merton in his book, The Seeds of Contemplation, says that we cannot have peace by trusting in men who can’t be trusted. He invites us to trust God Who can be trusted. As a nation, we need to recognize that we are “one nation under God” and submit our destiny to Him. Only then we can have true peace.

Our present culture wars demonstrate that we would like to drive God out of our civic lives. We want to manage our destinies by ourselves. In the long run, such a choice may hurt us more than we realize.

Let us pray for our men and women in the armed forces – both living and deceased. Let us encourage young people to consider serving the country. Let us pray for our country. God bless us all!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

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Park Ridge, IL 60068


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Sunday

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