Sunday, May 25, 2014

Consider Me a Believer

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest

One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.  After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.  Acts 16:14-15

“Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”  John 15:20-21

God of peace, stir in the hearts of the leaders of all nations, and in all who would use violence to further their cause. Change their hearts and minds. Give them a passion for peace. Bring an end to the pain, suffering, injustice, and violence in our world.
We know, dear Lord that ultimate peace will not come until your kingdom is here in all of its fullness. Nevertheless, we pray for a foretaste of the future. We ask for the growth of peace throughout our world today, so that fewer and fewer men and women will have to risk and even to sacrifice their lives. May your kingdom come, Lord, and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!
All praise be to you, God of grace, God of mercy, God of justice, God of peace!  Amen

A memorial on Memorial Day.  Today, the memorial for St. Philip Neri coincides with the civil holiday of Memorial Day in the United States. 
In the Roman liturgical calendar, we learn that “memorials” are lower in importance than solemnities and feasts.  There are 159 memorials listed in the general Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, and six more that are celebrated only in the dioceses of the United States. Many of the fixed days dedicated in memory of a saint like Philip Neri are memorials – and can be viewed through two different lenses either obligatory or optional.  Of the 165 memorials celebrated in the US, 71 are listed as obligatory (like today) and 94 are listed as optional.  On those 71 days, every church in every location celebrates the same memorial.
Working in parallel with the liturgical calendar, Memorial Day can be observed through two different lenses.  Through the lens of the civil-religious calendar, it is a day for remembering and honoring those who have died in battle – giving the ultimate sacrifice. 
More than 150 years ago, in its earliest traditions, it was called Decoration Day and was an occasion to put flowers or flags on the graves of veterans.  This is distinct from Veterans Day which honors those who are or who have served in the armed forces.  From the pastoral lens, Memorial Day is an opportunity for healing and remembering loss of those in the armed forces or public service (such as police officers).  We have an opportunity to be present with others as we come to terms with loss and devastation attributed to war.  In addition, many also will remember the non-combatants who were innocent victims of wars.

Whether we are remembering a specific saint or a specific person killed in war, we are connected to them through a shared value system based on faith or patriotism.  Lydia was united with the early disciples through the share belief in Jesus of Nazareth.  We are connect to Jesus, Lydia, the early church and the modern church in the same way – through values that we hold in common.      
The bottom line to remember on this day? “No slave is greater than his master.”  John (13:16 and 15:20) repeated that for emphasis twice even after we witnessed the washing of the feet ceremony.  Matthew and Luke also echo it.  If we share and accomplish that value in our piety, study and action, we will memorialize Jesus in unity as living stones believing in his honor. Let us truly make this a day of prayer for permanent peace.
Pause in prayer at 3 p.m. local time Monday for a National Moment of Remembrance.
PS:  Did anyone else recognize the similarity in the parallel citations to the reference of John 13:16 and John 3:16?  Just a coincidence?  Or maybe the subject for a future reflection.

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