Memorial Day Weekend
25 May 2014
“‘I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always.’” (John 14:16)
In the name …
I thank Mrs. Grybko for earlier sharing her remarks with us. She and Betty Hollingsworth of the Deerfield Memorial Day Committee had originally given this presentation in two parts to the young people of our School of Christian Living back in November. Mrs. Hollingsworth concentrated on the veterans as we prepared for Veteran’s Day. We gathered together out at our cemetery. We pointed out some of the graves of our deceased veterans and shared their stories. Jane has recorded 94 veterans buried up at the end of West Street. I hope you will join me tomorrow at the cemetery for prayers as Deerfield’s parade marches through to pay their respects. You can see the 94 flags that testify to the bravery, dedication and sacrifice of our deceased veterans. And I don’t think we have a good idea of how many men and women there are who served in the Armed Forces and who are listed on our Veteran’s Plaque out in the vestibule. We walk by it every time we enter and leave this church building. If I count correctly, there are nearly 170 names honouring our veterans, living and deceased. The Deerfield Memorial Day Committee is working hard to catalog as much information as they can about the veterans who are buried in Deerfield, including those at our cemetery, because remembering is important.
Mrs. Grybko, for her part back in November, focused on some of the organizers of our parish as we prepare to celebrate our 85th anniversary. A lot of people sacrificed greatly for this church to be here for 85 years and many of them rest in the consecrated ground of our cemetery. Others, even though they were children at the time, have been members of Holy Name of Jesus for her entire history right up to the present. Their names are listed in the bulletin and the newsletter. The parish is planning to honour these eleven charter members at Mass on Sunday, June 8th. That day is extremely important for it will be Pentecost Sunday, which is the birthday of the entire Christian church, and it is also the day we will close our School of Christian Living classes for the academic year. I have been meeting with the students once a month since September and talking to them about the story of our church. On June 8th our life-long members will have the chance to tell their stories to our youngest church members and to share with them and all of us their stories of the earliest days of Holy Name of Jesus.
Remembering is important. It gives us place. Context. A friend even shared with me the book Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin. It’s also been turned into a PBS series that is now airing. It’s the account of the connections between us and the first living creature that ventured out of the oceans and onto land. This ancient ancestor of all of us, some 365 million years old, helps to define who we are still today. I frequently get calls at the rectory asking if we have any information about a grandparent or great grandparent. People want to know where they have come from. Maybe not hundreds of millions of years ago, but at least a few generations back. It helps us to not only understand who they were, but who we are. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said in the 4th century B.C. that we are immortal because we are remembered by those who come after us. In a sense we live on when we are remembered. Remembering is important for us, but also for the remembered. This is why we shouldn’t treat tomorrow as if it were only a vacation day. Tomorrow is a day of solemn remembrance, and remembering matters.
This past Tuesday I was at a meeting over in Amherst. Part of the evening’s agenda was to recognize a young man who had won a marksmanship competition. He happened to be a veteran of the Afghanistan war. He was stationed at a forward operating base. He was asked a couple of times if he would like to say anything to us about his experience, to maybe help us understand what serving at a forward operating base in a place like Afghanistan was like. He declined both invitations. After he had left we found out that he had fragments of his buddy’s bones imbedded in his leg from an explosion. How was that young man going to explain serving under those conditions to us in a few minutes? How could he help us appreciate his life over there when the hardest thing I have had to endure recently was a kitchen renovation? Even though he declined to speak, I would bet that he takes notice of how many of us take the time to remember on Memorial Day. The simple act of remembering won’t make us understand the lives of those who served, but it will let them know that we appreciate it. Remembering is important.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is getting His followers prepared for His departure from them. He will ascend to heaven, but Jesus promises to then send “‘another Advocate to be with you always.’” This Advocate is the Holy Spirit who will come to the church on Pentecost. That the Spirit is referred to as “another Advocate” means that Jesus also considers Himself to be our advocate. Jesus thus remembers us before God and it is hoped that we will always remember Jesus. Remembering is important.
So on this Memorial Day weekend I ask you all to remember. Sunderland gathered on Friday evening. Whately gathers today and Deerfield tomorrow. I hope you have found the time or will find the time to remember those who now serve, who have served, and especially those who have died for our nation. Remember as well the ones who came before us in this sacred place as we approach our 85 anniversary as church. And lastly, remember our Lord because He constantly remembers us. It is for these things that we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In the name …
Fr. Randolph Calvo