The Memorial Day holiday is good timing this year. Memorial Day is the day we set aside as a nation, not to unofficially begin our summer in New England, but to remember our loved ones who have entered eternal life. The same eternal life that Jesus says in today’s Gospel that he gives to all whom the Father has given to him. That those of us with faith in the Son, persevering in our faith in the Son, which many folks lose along the way in a world that goes berserk around us, that they will receive the greatest of all gifts. And how are the words “eternal life” defined? As our Lord says in the Gospel; “That they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
So what does it mean to “know” God? I go back a couple weeks ago to what I said about heaven; that heaven is not a place with boundaries and limitations. Heaven is an eternal relationship with God. It’s not important “where” heaven is, or how it happens, or what’s there or what isn’t there of our favorite things in the world. What’s relevant is our eternal relationship with our Creator. Eternal life is to desire and seek that enduring relationship. The same relationship we pray that our loved ones have come to experience in all its fullness.
If our family and friends who have died could somehow return to us and speak to us to us their experience of eternal life – at least those on the good side of it – the first thing they would likely say is, “What are you waiting for? Why you taking so long to get here? Why are you taking all that doctor-prescribed medicine that holds you back from the joy of why you were created? Don’t be fooled by the belief that the world you inhabit now is even remotely better than the joy I have come to know.” Or, something along those lines they would say.
My purpose is not to lessen the importance of the gift of our lives in the present. But what we know and experience right now is one candle trying to light up an entire desert at night. There’s some light before us. The light of our faith in Christ. The light of our Lord’s presence in the Sacraments. It’s enough to illuminate our vision of God at this time. To give us hope, and never to give up on our faith. But at the end of each day we know we have to walk through the doors of death in order to see the entire desert lit up always and forever, never to go dark.
The 7th Sunday of Easter does not end the Easter Season. The Easter Season of celebrating Jesus’ victory over death, when the grave was but a temporary bus stop to our Lord, ends officially next week after the celebration of Pentecost. (Don’t forget to wear your red). But this is the last Sunday for this Church year where the word “Easter” is used. And we all know what Easter means. Even our 1st graders in Religious Education know what the word Easter means. If you ask them they will say, “Jesus is alive!” From the mouths of babes.
It’s because this is the last Sunday that we will use the word “Easter” to define a given Sunday that it’s very good timing with the secular holiday of Memorial Day.
I propose that this Memorial Day we take some time to reflect upon the meaning of this phrase that Jesus defines in the Gospel; eternal life. Not just some place up there; not what may or may not be up there, like your favorite restaurant or your favorite vacation destination. But reflect on their experience of knowing the only true God, and the one whom he sent, Jesus Christ. How blessed are they, that because of Easter, they no longer have to deal with anymore false gods. They don’t have to deal with the thousands of false gods in our world anymore. That’s such a beautiful part of what defines eternal life. No more false gods to contend with.
From money, to materialism, to sexuality, to worshipping mere mortals who are sinful creatures, especially in the world of politics and in the Church. That stuff is forever gone for them. Instead, they now know the one true God… Who possesses their entire being forever. Please don’t be fooled by the thought that the Patriots winning the Super Bowl in dramatic fashion is somehow more enjoyable than knowing the one true God. It’s pretty good if you’re a Patriots fan. But that one level of joy in this life is tiny preparation for the dramatic game God has ready for those who love him. It’s necessary as people of faith that we deepen our religious insight over the course of our lives, while enjoying what we have right now.
In the first reading today from Acts, the 11 Apostles, minus Judas the betrayer who suffered the consequences of his choice, they head back to the Upper Room. They have the best of company with Mary, the mother of Jesus, some women, as the reading says, which I’m sure included Mary Magdalene, and some of Jesus’ relatives.
They are the elite group of the Catholic Church. There they are in the Upper Room where the Eucharist was born. And what are they doing? They devote themselves to one accord to prayer. This is the cream of the crop of Christian pray-ers, praying Christian prayer. They’re the first men and women who devote themselves to prayer through Christ. They will pray for the Church about to be born next Sunday on Pentecost. They pray for one another. They pray for their persecutors. They pray for the growth of the Church, and a thousand different needs. They pray through Christ.
As we draw close to the end of the Easter Season, with Pentecost Sunday on the horizon when the Spirit will go as wild as a class of 2nd-graders on a field trip, may we double down and devote that part of our lives to prayer through Christ for the situations that most concern each of us. Especially to what we commemorate this weekend. We pray for those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. That they may enjoy the deepest meaning of this phrase, eternal life. To know the one true God, and the one whom he sent, Jesus the Christ.
There’s no better prayer for the 7th Sunday of Easter alongside the commemoration of Memorial Day. They make for good timing in 2017.