Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday word, 25 May 2009

Seventh Easter Monday [U.S. Memorial Day] (25 May 2009)
Ac 19.1-8; Ps 68; Jn 16. 29-33
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Two Needs
Even as the Acts of the Apostles suggests the ineluctable movement of Jesus’ Spirit among people to spread his gospel and to upbuild the church, Luke’s account recognized the movement of the Spirit was not without twists and turns. We heard one of them.

Believers in the great cultural center of Ephesus only knew the baptism of John. It introduced people to reforming their lives. Spirit baptism, the baptism Jesus commissioned his followers to practice, empowered people to lived reformed lives not just reform their lives.

All of us know the difference from experience. We set new directions for our lives in a variety of areas--exercise; diet; choosing to read more than watching TV; offering time at a shelter; making a point to keep in touch with people; setting aside time with family; you can others.

We set new directions for our lives, and it isn’t long that we find ourselves veering back to a patterns we wanted to change! Reforming our lives is one thing, indeed; living reformed lives is not easy. Perseverance is truly saintly. Perseverance returns us to a life-giving path from which we’ve strayed or never really began.

The paths I mentioned are human. Those I mentioned and those you name as yours challenge us to exploit our human potential to the advantage of each individual and society. We accept Jesus’ Spirit as part of our lives so that, along with our humanity, the image of God in whom we have been created may shine more clearly to each person and in society. Welcoming Jesus’ Spirit is not without twists and turns. We do it reluctantly sometimes; at other times we drink in Jesus’ Spirit; sometimes we even spit out the Spirit, who earlier had slaked thirsts so hard to name yet so very real.

Memorial Day reminds us of twists and turns that threats to society have posed and continue to pose. War’s greatest threat to individuals is death. The death of combatants snuffs out lives too young. Their deaths tear them from loved ones with a finality defying description. Today, war kills more noncombatants than before.

This wrenching pain felt by people had long found an outlet in both spontaneous and planned expressions of remembering and honoring the dead in our nation’s Civil War. Like many streams meeting to form a river, those spontaneous and planned expressions of remembering and honoring the dead gave birth to Memorial Day.

Some say that when Congress passed the Holiday Act of 1971, moving Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May, its meaning drowned in a three-day weekend. Our human need to honor those who gave their lives in serving our country runs deep. Another need, at once human and divine, calls us.

Pope Paul VI, expressed it before the United Nations General Assembly in October 1965, in that era when nations felt greater need to end the threat of war. Pope Paul made his impassioned plea and pledge: “No more war, war never again!” Other popes have repeated it and clothed it in their words.

People can reform their lives so that they shun battlefields of territory as well as of the heart. Yet, we need power from beyond ourselves to live peacefully and to cultivate peace. We Catholics, joined by other Christians, know that Jesus’ Spirit empowers us to live peacefully and to cultivate peace.

Honoring our dead does not challenge us, that is, it comes naturally. Living the pledge of “No more war, war never again!” does not come naturally. Our war-dead, like the survivors of war, want our honor of them to include living the pledge of peace. We honor them well when we also call on Jesus’ Spirit, and desire to grow more familiar with the Power, who empowers us to wage and to live peace.
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