Just as Jesus at the Last Supper asked that when we gather for Eucharist and bread and wine are changed into his body and blood, we should “do this in memory of [him]” so today Eucharist was celebrated at Calvary Cemetery in Pinellas Park not only in memory of the Lord’s sacrifice of self but also in memory of our gallant women and men who have given their lives in service to our nation or who have served in the armed services of the United States. Every year several hundred faithful join me on Memorial Day for this special moment when our whole nation pauses to honor the memory of our fallen heroes as well as those who served. It is a nice custom and although it is always one of the “warmest” Masses I celebrate, I do not mind it; indeed, I look forward to it.
Today I remember my own brother, Tim, who alone among the three Lynch boys was drafted to serve in the army in Vietnam. Tim is a family treasure still living. I was not present on the platform at Route 128 station just outside of Boston when he boarded a New York, New Haven and Hartford passenger train to begin his long cross country train ride to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he would board a ship bound for Vietnam. He tells of the tears in my mom and dad’s eyes as they said “good-bye” to him and how he came to believe of the bond of love between a child and his parents which accompanied that moment. Tim served his time in the heart of the fighting and experienced some of the most unspeakable horrors that accompany any and all wars. He has steadfastly refrained form sharing the details of those moments but it has been clear to all who love him that they were indelibly marked in his heart and mind. He survived when others with whom he served did not. My brother Jim and I owe Tim and his fellow soldiers an eternal debt of gratitude for their courage, valor and strength. It is easy for me on a day like this to stand at the altar at the cemetery and look out on those graves marked with small flags indicating former service men and women and give thanks to God in memory of those who served. I had an occasion to walk the American cemetery at the Normandy beaches a few years ago with another friend who served in Vietnam and I remember saying to him, could there not have been a future president, governor, priest, bishop, inventor, administrator, teacher laid to rest there in Flander’s fields. Only God knows and God also knows that today, Memorial Day 2009, we gather to celebrate the ultimate, final victory of life over death and pray in memoriam for He who conquered sin and death and for those who fought that we might live in freedom.