Monday May 28, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Memorial Day
Reading (Acts 19:1-8) Gospel (St. John 16:29-33)
In the first reading today we hear St. Paul talking to these early disciples and asking them how it was that they were baptized. They tell him that they were baptized with the baptism of John, and that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit. So St. Paul then Baptizes them according to the Holy Trinity; Baptizes them in the name of the Lord Jesus so that the Holy Spirit would come down upon them. The reason why I mention that today is because that is our hope. Today as our country takes a day off to be able to remember those who have died, those people who have fought for our country and for our freedom; and for everyone else as well, our families and our friends, all of those people who have gone before us, the only hope is in Jesus Christ.
What good would it do for our country to take a day just to remember things of the past, to remember that people have died before us so that we could have freedom, if there was not some connection with those people? Human beings are not just a vague memory of the past, but rather the human soul is immortal and will live forever. We know that there are only two eternal possibilities, purgatory of course exists but that is going to pass away, but every human soul is immortal and will live forever. The wonderful thing for us is that we are filled with hope. We are filled with hope because of the faith of the people who have gone before us. We are filled with hope because of the promises that our Lord has made to us. Even just listen to the Gospel reading today; our Lord tells us that we are going to have peace because of Him. Not because of anything within ourselves, not because of the world, not because the country says let us take a day off and think of those people who have died, but our peace is only in Jesus Christ, because it is only in Him that we have life.
He tells us that in this world we are going to suffer. Any of us who have lost someone who is very dear to us know that. We know the pain; we know that sorrow deep in our hearts. We think for instance of losing a parent, losing a child, losing a spouse. We know that pain that is there. In this world there is suffering. Yet at the same time, even in this world there is great hope because our Lord tells us that He has overcome the world. Therefore in overcoming the world, even though His disciples abandoned Him and left Him quite alone, as He tells us, He is never alone and we are never alone, because the Trinity remains with us. The Lord is with us always comforting us, and strengthening us, and helping us always to have hope. The wonderful thing that we have that so many in this world do not, is the hope and the confidence that we will be reunited with those whom we love. Those who were united with us in this world by the bonds of faith, we are going to be reunited with them for eternity in the fulfillment of that faith. So even though in this world there is suffering, and as we say in the Hail Holy Queen, we call this the vale of tears because there is much sorrow, and yet that sorrow for Christian people is tempered with great hope and with confidence in the promises of our Lord.
Today is not just a day of remembrance of those people who have gone before us. In one sense it is indeed and we are all grateful for the courageous example that these people have set down for us. We are grateful for the people who have died so that we could live in freedom, and for those people who provided for us such a fine example of what it is to live a Christian life. For those people in our families who are responsible for us having life, we are indeed grateful. But it is not a day of merely looking back; it is a day of looking forward, forward to the day when we can be with them. And it is a day of remembrance, not a remembrance merely of the past, but a remembrance for us that we are still united with all of these people. All of those who died in the state of grace are part of the communion of saints. All of those in purgatory, all of those who are in heaven are united still with us, even more closely than they were when they were alive in this world. Even those who passed away before we were born, we are united with them all in Jesus Christ.
So as the country takes out a day for remembrance, as Catholic people the day of remembrance is a day of prayer so that we will not forget those who are united to us by the bonds of grace, and we pray for those who are in purgatory. We need to remember those who need our prayers. They are praying for us, we must pray for them. On this Memorial Day, it is a memory of our beloved dead that we celebrate in a special way, and we celebrate that in prayer. It is so that we would not forget that there are people who have laid down their lives for us, and the Lord asks that we would do the same. He asks that we would lay down our lives for those whom we love and for those who love us. Today in a special way, remember those who have gone before us. Pray for them throughout the day and not just today but everyday. We can hasten the day of the fullness of life for them, and we can bring them from the suffering that they endure into the fullness of joy, where there are no more tears, where there is no more suffering, where they will be united eternally with Jesus Christ. That is our hope; that is our confidence; that is our prayer for those who have gone before us.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.