A reflection on Memorial Day

It is Memorial Day in these United States! Three words capture its significance and purpose: remembrance, gratitude and honor.

Surely, we remember all those who have given their lives in the defense of our nation, in the cause of freedom, in the pursuit of justice which leads to true peace. We remember the countless men and women who have fought in wars and in other kinds of armed conflict throughout the history of this nation, from the very beginning to the current times. For most of us, the more recent memories encompass the Second World War and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan; others too come in to mind. We remember all who have fallen and pray for them, asking the Lord to give them in His Presence eternal life and peace.

But, we also remember those who have suffered the ravages of war, not with the loss of life, but with bodily injury, like the loss of limbs or illnesses that perdure for the rest of their lives. We remember too those who are enduring emotional or psychological suffering because of what they experienced on the battleground. We must not forget the families of those men and women who were killed in action or who may be still missing in action, or who have been severely injured, bodily or emotionally. These families' members grieve; they suffer. We remember.

As we remember, we express profound gratitude: gratitude for the unselfish sacrifices these men and women have made to God, to country, and to us; gratitude for those who support and assist our veterans and their families; gratitude for the lessons they teach us about generosity even to the giving of one's life, about love of God and country, about securing justice which leads to peace.

As we remember and express gratitude, we also honor both those who have died and our veterans who are with us. This is honor we express not only by erecting monuments and memorials, by placing flags on their graves, and by visiting cemeteries, but also by the respect and support we give to their loved ones who remain and to our veterans and their families who live among us; by a sincere word of thank you, by our ongoing prayers, and by our own commitment to seek justice which leads to true and lasting peace.

In Saint John's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." Earlier he says, "I have told you this so that you have peace in me." Yes, ultimately, in Jesus, we find our peace and our enduring hope. Holding on to His words, we entrust all whom we have remembered today to Him-and ourselves as well. Christ Jesus alone is our peace, our hope and our life! Amen.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2009