|Private Fulton Henry Meyers|
443rd Coast Artillery Battalion
Died: November 9, 1942
North Africa Campaign, World War II
The other day I heard a radio commentator vilify the idea of Memorial Day. He explained that he thought that setting aside a day to glorify war was wrong and that it was especially wrong in the context of church services, parades and family barbecues. I was a little surprised on hearing these words, not that they came from the mouth of that particular commentator, but because I, perhaps naively, thought that Memorial Day was a universally accepted holiday. Who could object to dedicating a day to the memory of those who died to protect our freedom? But then it dawned on me that this commentator just didn’t get it. Memorial Day isn’t about war. It’s about people - real people who gave their lives for others. And that’s who Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.
Our familiar Gospel passage recalls the story of the rich man who’s looking for the secret to eternal life. Jesus tells him in no uncertain terms that he must follow the commandments, sell all he has and give it to the poor. He must live a life for others; he must live a life of selfless giving. In short, it’s all about people. Unfortunately, this rich man couldn’t do that. He was too attached to his worldly goods, he was too comfortable with life as he knew it to accept the gift of eternal life. And so he went away sad.
The Gospel is clear – our lives are ordered to serve others. “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time." Service isn’t a chore – it’s a gift that fills us with great joy. Just think of how good you feel when you do a good deed; when you help a friend in need; when you serve others. That good feeling gives us a glimpse of the eternal life that is ours when we turn away from ourselves and dedicate our lives to others.
And so on Memorial Day, we don’t celebrate or glorify war. We hate war and the death and destruction it brings. On Memorial Day we celebrate people.
+ On Memorial Day we gather together as a faith community in our churches to remember real people who understood that there is no greater love than this: “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13);
+ On Memorial Day we come together as a nation at parades and civic services to honor real people who “gave the last full measure of devotion” to safeguard the freedoms we enjoy, including religious freedom and the freedom of speech; and
+On Memorial Day, we come together with family and friends to celebrate real people, our grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, who died in the service of others, whom we respect and miss and love so much.
Readings: Sirach 17:20-24; Psalm 32; Mark 10 17-27