The purpose of Remembrance Day is to remember and honour 3 groups of people: men and women who died serving our country; men and women who served our country who are still living (our veterans); and men and women who are serving our country at this moment in areas where there are wars and conflicts or peacekeeping missions.
We remember and honour these 3 groups of people by sharing stories of their experiences, wearing poppies, laying wreaths, having moments of silence, and so forth.
All these actions are good and meaningful. However, from a Christian perspective, if this is all we do, there is something missing. As people of faith, we ought to go 1 step further. We ought to let God enter the picture. Practically speaking, this means that, during our celebration of Remembrance Day, we rely on our belief in God to shape what we think, what we say and what we do.
I would like us to reflect on 3 ways of involving God as we celebrate Remembrance Day. The 1st way deals with the 1st group of people: those who died.
The essential truth of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. The tomb was not the end of Jesus’ story; it is not the end of our story either. The good news of the Gospel is that, since Easter morning, death no longer has the last word. The last word is life, life that never ends.
Today, let us not just remember and honour those who have died serving our country. We can do something more – we can pray for them.
On a personal note, I will always hold Private Andrew Miller in my heart. He was a student at St. Charles College during my time as Principal of this school. He was killed in 2010. He was 21.
I will always remember Trooper Mark Wilson who was killed on Thanksgiving weekend in 2006. At the time of his death 1 of his sons was attending St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School. His other son was at one of our Catholic elementary schools. What a heartbreaking experience it was for me as a Superintendent of Education to attend the Remembrance Day ceremony at St. Benedict that year alongside Trooper Wilson’s widow and their 2 sons.
This parish family will always hold dear Cpl. Glenn Arnold, nephew of parishioners, whose name is inscribed on the memorial plaque placed in the ramp hallway.
The key message this morning is let us move beyond mere remembering tragic events of the past. With great confidence and trust, let us pray that that Jesus, who is stronger and more powerful than death, may bring all our war dead to their home in heaven so that they can live with him forever.
The 2nd way of involving God in our Remembrance Day celebrations deals with the 2nd and 3rd group of people: those who are still living.
Let us not just remember and honour the lives of our veterans and the lives of those who continue to serve our country. Let us do something better than that. Our prayers are the best gift we can give them.
Many of our veterans suffer from PSTD. Also, there is a higher than normal suicide rate among pour veterans. Let us pray that government and health authorities may be committed to providing programs and services for the health and well-being of all veterans.
Let us also pray that God will hold all current members of the Canadian Forces, including Private Taylor Williamson, son of parishioners, in the palm of his hand and protect them from all harm until they return safely to their families and communities.
The 3rd way of involving God in our Remembrance Day celebrations is related directly to the Gospel passage we have just heard. Remembrance Day is not about glorifying or justifying war. Remembrance Day is an opportunity for us, as followers of Jesus, to dedicate ourselves to peace. These words were proclaimed in today’s Gospel: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
On October 4, the feast of St. Francis, Pope Francis went to Assisi and visited the tomb of St. Francis. On top of the tomb, the Pope signed his most recent encyclical entitled “Fratelli tutti” (an expression that St. Francis often used). The translation of this Italian title is “We are all brothers and sisters”. “All” means everyone. There are no exceptions. There are to be no exclusions based on race, ethnic origin, language, family status or religion.
As a result of baptism, we are sons and daughters of God. We belong to God’s family. We are all related to each other. As such, the Gospel invites us to be makers of peace in all areas of our lives. Elsewhere, Pope Francis gave us this wonderful definition of a peacemaker: “The Christian builds bridges, not walls”.
Every day can a tremendous opportunity for each of us to be a peace maker, a bridge builder, to be an instrument of solidarity and fraternity rather than an agent of conflict and division, to be someone who includes others rather than someone who shuts others out or hurts others! The Gospel challenges us to be people of peace every day by the way we treat the people around us.
Yes, we need to remember and honour those who died, those who served, and those who are serving to make sure that we have a better life. We do not want to forget their sacrifice for our good.However, as people of faith, we need to do more.
As our Mass continues, let us offer 3 prayers to God. First, let us pray for those who served and died. Peace eluded them in this life. May they experience peace in the presence of God forever.
Second, let us pray for our veterans and for those who are serving now to protect our freedom. May God support them with his power and strength.
Third, let us pray for ourselves. May God help us to live as peace makers in our homes, neighbourhoods, places of work and recreation, and community.
November 11, 2020