Parades, picnics, and patriotism are all well and good. In the United States, they provide a kind of Memorial Day ritual through which we honor those who have served our country. Other countries have similar days of remembrance.
But there’s an even more important way we can honor those who have given their lives to protect our freedoms. This year, instead of just waving a flag and thanking a veteran, think about doing something more. Offer up a Mass.
2 Maccabees 12 provides a scriptural precedent for just such an action.
During his campaign to free the Jews from Greek oppression, Judas Maccabeus returned to the field of battle to retrieve the bodies of some fallen freedom fighters. Unfortunately, he discovered his fallen comrades had committed idolatry and worshipped a false god. (They were carrying “sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear” (2 Mac 12:40).
What did he do? He offered sacrifice for their souls.
…and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out… 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin. (2 Mac 12:42-45) (italics mine)
While our departed loved ones were probably not carrying around idols, we recognize that none of them were perfect. They suffered from the effects of sin just like the rest of us. But the great thing is that we can help them!
As Catholics, we are all part and parcel of the Mystical Body of Christ. We’re all connected through the sacraments. Death in a state of grace doesn’t kick someone out of the family. They’ve just moved upstairs, so to speak.
And since we don’t know exactly where they are in the process of perfection, the very best thing we can do isn’t a parade, but an offering of the sacraments for their soul. Our loved ones have sacrificed for us. Now let us offer sacrifice for them (and have a parade!).
Happy Memorial Day and God bless those who fight to protect freedom everywhere.
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