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  • Writer's pictureFr. Gustavo

"Lord of all Hopefulness"

A flower high in the Atacama Desert
...to believe that flowers can bloom in the desert

This year, the Lessons appointed for today, Trinity Sunday, are set against the celebration of the Memorial Day Weekend.

 

At first glance it may appear that there is not much connection between the one and the other – unless we find a common thread tying both themes.

 

So, let me try this for size – “Memories.”

 

Our first lesson, from Isaiah sets the background.  “In the year that King Uzziah died…”

 

King Uzziah took the throne at age 16 and reigned for about 52 years.  History books tell us that Uzziah’s reign was “the most prosperous excepting that of Jehoshaphat since the time of Solomon.” 

 

The Scriptures tell us how Uzziah unified and fortified his country, reorganized and reequipped his army, and personally engaged in agricultural pursuits. His success as king, administrator, and commander-in-chief of the army made him ruler over the largest realm of Judah since the disruption of the kingdom. 

 

Many Israelites knew no other king but Uzziah.  He was appreciated and respected despite all his moral shortcomings.  As we all know, power corrupts, and so he tried to become not only King but Chief Priest.  It didn’t work out, and eventually, stricken sick, his son Jeroboam, had to substitute for him during the last twelve years of his kingdom.

 

So, in a way, there were mixed feelings when Uzziah at last died.  Yes, he did accomplish a lot, and people remembered him as leading a revival of the golden age of Salomon.  On the other hand, because of his moral shortcomings, in many quarters many would have said, “good riddance!”

 

But Isaiah’s message was striking, “This is not time to gloat or to mourn about old times.  It is time to look ahead to accomplish what I have in mind.  Whom shall I send?”

 

Memorial Day is a holiday for honoring and mourning the U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the American Armed Forces. 

 

It has been said that the tomb of the first soldier killed during the Civil War, John Quincy Marr, who died on June 1, 1861, was the first to be decorated with flowers and flags, and thus started a tradition that still stands today.

 

John was a Confederate soldier, and I am sure, early on not many in the Union may have been thrilled about honoring him.  But, soon enough, the idea of decorating the graves of Civil War soldiers—Union and Confederate alike gained traction.  Eventually, the following world wars turned the tradition into a day of remembrance for all members of the U.S. military who fought and died in service.

 

And like in life, in all and in any army and society, there are heroes and crooks who fought under different and opposing banners but, who nevertheless, now they are all united under the banner of death. 

 

And while memories of those who served should be honored, on the other hand, perhaps God may be asking us to turn the page, and to work hard for peace, so that there may never be new memorial stones.  Or as Calvin may have said, “To really know what we are doing”.

 

Our Sunday Eucharist is also a Memorial.  But it is a different kind of memorial. 

 

While Memorial Day and the day that King Uzziah died looked back unto the past, remembering the golden days together with those who died, and which regrettably will be no more, the Eucharist looks into the future.

 

Our Lord Himself asked us to continue celebrating the Mysteries of His Body and Blood, the Holy Wine, and Holy Bread, until his coming again.

 

While the Memorial Day graves forces us to recall the evils of enmity and war, the Empty Grave inspires us to look ahead for days of blessing, peace, harmony, and fellowship with one another, and with our Savior and Creator God.  The Eucharist is, indeed, a celebration of hopefulness.

 

And while the Memorial Day graves are decorated to signify respect and honor for the better days of yesteryear, the Altar is decorated to signify hope and conviction for better days ahead.

 

Now memory is tricky.  On the one hand “dwelling on the past is a means of escaping the problems of the present and the disturbing prospects of the future.  Sometimes we are tempted to glorify days gone by.  

 

“I suppose we all know people who seem to continually talk about how great things used to be.  Life was simpler, friendships were closer, motives were more pure, morals were higher and so on.”

 

The problem with such way of thinking is that we come “to believe that the best days of life have already gone by.  Everything else that follows is anticlimactic.”[i]  However, time and again, in the Eucharist God calls us to turn the page, and to look into the future.

 

Indeed, the Eucharistic Memorial stirs us back to look not only into the present but inspires us to hope for the best days are yet to come.  For every single day that it is past, it becomes a day closer to a better future by the hand of God.

 

The Memorial Supper, the Eucharist, should inspire us not to remember the past for its own sake – as valuable and important as it may be – but to open ourselves to the possibilities that the future by the hand of God holds for us.  

 

Indeed, God is not in the business of restoration, for “God is the One who makes all things new,” – not some day in the future, but right now.  For, as St Paul tells us, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5).

 

And yet, how sad it is that so much energy is spent in keeping a past long gone still alive.  Even sadder when one realizes that at least in God’s mind, it is no longer relevant nor even worthy of being remembered.

 

In many military graves, and certainly, in the lessons appointed for a military burial one may recall the words, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” (John 15).

 

But let us remember, however, that those words were said by Jesus, who calls us and count us his friends.

 

Those of us who have been in the military – or have been closely connected to the military – know that at the heart of any military movement, there is a lot of “hurry up and wait.”  Run to some place so once you get there, there is more time to wait!

 

Let me close with this.  Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we say to God, in effect, “Don’t wait any longer but hurry up.”  “Come Lord Jesus, says the Spirit and the Church.”  For we wait in hope, not in vain. 

 

At the beginning of my sermon, I said that I would try to tie both themes of this weekend, Trinity Sunday and Memorial Day.

 

Let me suggest that our celebration of Trinity Sunday was never meant to recall events past but to point us in hope into the future by the hand of our Creator, Redeemer, and Advocate.

 

Likewise, the celebration of the Holy Trinity is not meant to recall what such and such theologian said or what such and such great father or mother of the church thought and taught. 

 

Rather, we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity looking ahead in hope knowing that the God we confess, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit cannot be tied down to a formula, a confession of faith, and not even to a Bible verse.

 

In other words, the Trinity challenges us to trust a God that cannot be boxed in by any circumstances and for whom nothing is a head-scratching surprise.  A God who is beyond human knowledge and understanding and who, against all bets, is willing to surrender himself in love and in the person of His most precious Son, so that we can share in the splendor of God’s glorious majesty.

 

So now, empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, our Chief Cheerleader, let us commit ourselves to what God has in store for us.  For God is the One who still is calling, “Whom shall I send?”

 

In hope and in trust, let us say, “Here am I.  Send me!”

 

Fr. Gustavo


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