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					              Homily of Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien
                       Memorial Day Pilgrimage Mass
             Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception,
                                    Washington, DC
                              Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
                                   22nd May, 2005



       On this Feast of the Holy Trinity, on behalf of the men and women of our
Armed Forces who have given their lives for the cause of peace and justice, may
the prayer be ours that Paul offers for all of us in today’s second reading:

      May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God and
      the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

      Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three persons, one God. Truly the central Christian
mystery—the distinguishing Christian mystery not shared by our other two
monotheistic faiths, Judaism or Islam. We profess our belief in this mystery
thousands of times in a typically Catholic life, as through word and gesture for
almost 2 millennia, Catholics pray in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit. But what impact do those words and those gestures really have in
our every day relationship to God and neighbor?

        First, let us recognize how clear the teaching of the Holy Trinity is in Sacred
Scripture. Some hold that the Holy Trinity is foreshadowed in the Hebrew
Scriptures. There, in Genesis, the very first book of the Bible we have the story of
Creation: in each of the first 5 ½ days, the Lord creates light, the firmament and the
stars, and so forth with the simple declaration, “Let there be…”

       Then, the dramatic shift—“Let us make man in our image and likeness and
let them have dominion over all creation.” God, undeniably one, became a “we,”
an “us,” God, a community, a family of love who patterns all human creatures in
his communal, familial image and likeness.

      It is the New Testament that undeniably offers us the mystery of God as
family. 44 times in the New Testament, the One God is mentioned in a 3-fold way.




                                    Memorial Day--1
      The final words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel as he commissions his
apostles and ascends to heaven: Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the name—not in
the names—in one single name, One God. In the one name of three Persons—in
the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

       In his letters, St. Paul can hardly speak of Jesus without a trinitarian
mention. For him, the Trinity is central to the whole Christian life, a life always
lived in the shadow of the Trinity.

       But the Trinity is much more than a puzzle to be solved. It is a faith to be
lived, a faith which too often, as an abstraction, mildews in unopened packets of
formulas. We don’t celebrate an abstraction today. Too many Christians are, in
practice, theological unitarians. Remove the Trinity and there might be little
practical effect in the prayer life of many. Sure we would never deny or refute the
mystery of the Trinity. We simply gloss over it and leave it to the theologians to
address.

        Today’s feast insists that we appreciate the Trinity as relevant in our lives as
it is in the life of Jesus! And the opening words of today’s Gospel—perhaps the
most quoted in all the Bible—sets us on our way to that appreciation:

      John 3:16 (You’ve seen it on bumper stickers, and mysteriously carried
through the stands, perhaps behind home plate so that the TV audience might be
provoked to look into it).

      John 3:16:

      For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that
      everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal
      life.

       It is being claimed, for your acceptance or rejection, that not wanting to be
aloof, sealed off in a heavenly fortress, the Infinite, Eternal God reveals to us the
love of the Trinity—and going further, He shares that love with us. God wants to
end the alienation that began with Adam and Eve—in and through the flesh of
Jesus, God made man. The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus threw open a
house full of heavenly mansions for us. And we are destined to enter those
mansions only if we are faithful here, to the Spirit’s guidance which will take us
there!

                                     Memorial Day--2
      The Father does love the world—this world, your world—he sent us his only
Son to show that love and is sending us his Holy Spirit to seal that love.

       The Second Vatican Council suggests that what at first appears to be purely
secular activities often reflect Gospel values and even lay the groundwork for the
full Christian message.

        For the whole goal of the earthly life of Jesus, his preaching and teaching
and miracles, his suffering and death and resurrection—the whole thrust of his very
existence was to teach us of—no, to introduce us into and involve us in the
relationship of love that is his with His Father and the Holy Spirit. To bring us into
the perfect unity of love that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

      Never in the Old Testament is God addressed as Abba, dear Father, the
intimate name that Jesus uses and that he exhorts us to use in the prayer he left
us—Abba, Our Father. Pope John Paul II wrote:

      God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude but a family since he has in
himself fatherhood, sonship and (the Holy Spirit) the essence of family, which is
love.

      My three brother bishops and I are just now completing our pastoral visits to
more than 200 military installations around this world that God loves. We have
been truly privileged to witness a culture of generosity in this Archdiocese made
up of young Americans.

      Though they are not all professedly religious, the young members of our
Armed Forces are, in large numbers, spiritual and God-seeking. In a shimmering
but unmistakable way, as they willingly offer their lives for others, they reflect that
greater love that Jesus praised. This is not to suggest a call for corporate
canonization of these men and women who serve our Country. Like the rest of us,
they are capable of error, poor judgment and sin. But their readiness to serve under
the most trying of circumstances is remarkable and inspiring.

       In assessing the role of our military forces in today’s world, may I offer the
prayer President Roosevelt uttered on the eve of D-Day, as he sang the praises of
the then GI Joe.

    Almighty God,

                                    Memorial Day--3
    These men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the
    lust of conquest. They fight to end the conquest. They fight to liberate.
    They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will, among all the
    people. They yearn but for an end of battle, for their return to the haven of
    home.

       Today, we salute our Armed Forces’ active duty members—so many of you
are here, who have recently been in harm’s way. In a particular way, we celebrate
your families: parents, spouses, children, whose silent sacrifice is often heroic, and
too often unheralded, in the midst of frequent and long deployments.

        In speaking of our men and women in uniform and their families, I cannot
fail to mention our chaplains who accompany our people through thick and thin.
Typical of our priests is Father Paul Hurley of Boston, a West Point graduate, now
a chaplain in Iraq. He e-mailed me this week, and part of his message is as
follows:

            This Friday I will celebrate my ten-year anniversary of
      priesthood. One classmate sent me an invitation to our anniversary
      gathering and expressed his regret that I was stuck here in Iraq for
      such a wonderful celebration. I understand his point, but quite
      honestly I cannot think of a better way to celebrate priesthood than
      going around in these difficult circumstances to bring the Eucharist to
      people who have such a great need for it, and a wonderful appreciation
      for the priests who make it possible. In my limited knowledge, [he
      concludes,] this is what priesthood is all about.

       We salute, as well, the willingness of our military leadership to include
America’s faith communities as an important component in its ongoing mission of
peace. Hopefully, the reminder of our late and beloved Pope John Paul II’s to
Catholic militaries throughout the world would find strong resonance and fruitful
fulfillment throughout our American Armed Forces. He would see you as
sentinels, scanning the horizon to promote justice and peace everywhere.

      You are called to defend the weak, to protect the honest, to foster
      peaceful co-existence of peoples.




                                    Memorial Day--4
      But today, in this our annual Memorial Day Pilgrimage, we especially honor
the memory of those who have made the supreme sacrifice of their lives. In doing
so, might we not best repeat the tribute of Pope John Paul II in speaking to military
and other defense forces, during the Jubilee Year 2000.

      I would like to offer a tribute to your many friends who have paid with
      their lives for fidelity to their mission. Forgetting themselves and
      despairing danger, they rendered the community a priceless
      service…But where did they find the strength necessary to do their
      duty to the full?…Many of them believed in Christ, and his words
      illumined their existence and gave exemplary value to their sacrifice.
      They made the Gospel their code of conduct. May the example of
      your colleagues, who in faithfully doing their duty reached the heights
      of heroism and, perhaps, of holiness, be an example to you…Today,
      [The Pope concluded} during the Eucharistic celebration we entrust
      them to the Lord with gratitude and admiration.”

       Here, in this majestic Basilica Shrine of Our Lady, we commend to the
embrace of our loving, Triune God, the souls of those who have laid down their
lives for our Country. We offer this Sacrifice of the Mass for them. We also echo
the concise, if less solemn prayer of General George Patton:

      God of our Fathers…Let me not mourn for the men who have died
      fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived.”

       Above all, we pray for peace, firmly grounded in justice and for a safe return
of our thousands of Americans and our allies, far from home on perilous duty.

       As we proceed into this Eucharistic Sacrifice, let the words of today’s
second reading again resonate in our hearts and on our lips. It is St. Paul pleading
with the Christians of Corinth. May his plea soon be realized among the people of
every faith and nation:

      Brothers and sisters, mend your ways, encourage one another, live in
      peace, and the God of love and peace be with you.

       May the sacrifices of our Armed Forces soon realize that peace and may
their comrades who have gone before them rest in peace.




                                   Memorial Day--5
                  +Archbishop Edwin O’Brien




Memorial Day--6

				
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