I am posting two reflections here -- the first explicitly for Memorial Day and the second focusing on the readings for Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time. cm
In Shakespeare’s play Henry V, the king under disguise speaks with his troops before battle. One soldier claims that the king would be guilty of all the sins of those who die in battle if his cause is not just. Henry disagrees. “The King is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers...,” he says, “for they purpose not their death when they purpose their services.”
Henry seems to make the better argument. For this reason we come here to pray for dead soldiers and sailors, not for dead Presidents. We can easily imagine the temptations of those going off to war. They may become over-zealous in killing during battle, or they may behave immorally in recreation away from home. Whether their sins are grave or light, they deserve our prayers. After all, they gave their lives that we might enjoy freedom and dignity.
Catholics show themselves as worthy Americans on Memorial Day by remembering at Mass our country’s war dead. Few practices are more uniquely Catholic than praying for the dead. And there is no better way to pray for the dead than offering for their sake the memorial of our Savior’s death.
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Preachers used to have a solution to the absurdity of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. They claimed that there was a gate in Jerusalem called “the needle eye” which a camel might enter if it ducked enough. So, they concluded, Jesus allows the possibility of the rich saving themselves after all.
Such an interpretation of Jesus’ words, however, misconstrued the point Jesus is making. Because they think of riches as a blessing from God, the disciples figure that God will continue to bless them with a ticket to heaven. Jesus disabuses them of this idea by saying that the chances of the rich entering heaven are as impossible as a ten-foot animal’s passing through a quarter-inch opening.
Do the poor have a greater chance? Jesus would answer “yes” because the poor tend to ask God’s help more regularly. The rich too can be saved if they sincerely turn to God for assistance. Jesus wants to impress upon all that on our own we cannot cross the divide that separates us from God. Whether we are as rich as Bill Gates or as strong as Mr. Atlas our resources are insufficient. But God can get us across so let us implore His help and live up to His commands.