Memorial Day

Homily for May 27, 2018 (The Most Holy Trinity)

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20

This weekend, millions of people across our country will visit a place most of us would rather avoid: the cemetery. After all, tomorrow is Memorial Day. For many people, this is little more than the opportunity for a three-day weekend to celebrate the unofficial start of summer. For others, especially those who have lost a family member in one of our nation's wars or other military actions and adventures, it's a time of solemnity.

One of the most moving places to be this weekend is the National Mall in Washington, DC as well as at Arlington National Cemetery nearby. Whether one is looking at the sea of crosses and other grave markers at Arlington or the tens of thousands of names inscribed on the Vietnam War Memorial, it is sobering to remember that attached to every marker and every name there is a person—a man or woman who gave their life in service to our country, whose death altered the course of a family's, a community's, even a nation's history. Even if I didn't know them, there's something in me that feels a sense of kinship with them. If it's that way for me, I can only imagine how it must be for their families and relatives or the brothers and sisters who served with them in Germany, Italy, the South Pacific, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. 

There is something deep within us that needs to belong to someone or something bigger than ourselves. Psychologists have placed that need to belong near the top of the hierarchy of human needs. That's why today's celebration of the Most Holy Trinity is at once confounding and comforting. It's confounding in that, even when we have received by revelation our belief in the Trinity—Father, Son and Spirit, a communion of three persons yet one God—we realize that our limited human language can only scratch the surface of who God is and all God does.

It's also comforting. Through the mystery of God's grace and the waters of Baptism, we have the privilege of sharing in the life of God and the Church—two communions of persons that are definitely bigger than ourselves! The God who chose an enslaved and suffering people and brought them out of Egypt and into a covenant is the same God who created us. The God who, St. Paul testified, adopted us as children and made us heirs with Christ is the God who redeemed us. The Jesus who gave the first disciples the Great Commission to go out into the world to teach and baptize is the Jesus who will be with us always, "until the end of the age."

We live at a time in this nation's history when we are desperately in need of communion—not the bonds of "friends" and "followers" mediated through our devices, affiliations with political parties or ideologies, or the thrilling links that we have with our favorite college or pro sports teams. The communion that many need and crave is far deeper than that. 

It's the kind of communion that has its roots in a mystery that is profound and eternal. It's the kind of communion one might feel in a cemetery or a public memorial to those who, in President Lincoln's words "gave the last full measure of devotion." Hopefully it's the kind of communion you will feel as you approach the altar to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. +