In 1975, when I was a student at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, I participated in a biblical study trip to the Holy Land, a location appropriately called the “Fifth Gospel.” As you walk the land where Jesus walked, you better understand the other four Gospels.
The trip was an incredible experience and I was struck by the many events and sites witnessed; some beautiful, some not.
One of the experiences I found confusing was a broken down military tank from the Six-Day War in 1967. I thought that certainly this would have been cleaned up by now.
It had been eight years since the war ended.
There on the Golan Heights were a number of these “monuments” with fences around them. The group was told they were there as a reminder. The reminder had to do with remembering those who lost their lives and the heroic effort of those who fought. Remember the good accomplished. Remember also the pain involved.
There were a number of these “remembering experiences.” Remembering is an important part of Middle Eastern culture. They needed to remember as not to repeat the pains and sufferings. They needed to remember the joys and accomplishments of their efforts to keep them alive and strong.
These are reminders of how precious and fragile true values actually are. Remember. Never forget. Know the reasons why. Yet, how often we do forget?
This is a great season of remembering. Monday was Memorial Day, once named “Decoration Day” remembering the union and confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. They gave their lives for the unity of our country.
It was called Decoration Day, as families were accustomed to visiting the graves of the soldiers of their families and towns. They would spend the day at the cemetery and “decorate” the gravesites with flowers and flags. By the 20th century, this day was expanded to remember all who gave their lives in war. We need to remember. We must not forget, even as this day is viewed as the unoffficial beginning of summer. We need to remember.
We remember birthdays, anniversaries and important family events, too important to forget.
Similarly, the church is all about remembering. The cycle of readings repeats every three years. The weekday cycle of readings repeats every two years. The liturgical calendar repeats the important feasts of our church and feast days of our saints every year. We remember and we celebrate. We simply cannot forget. It’s too important.
Our parishes celebrated many important sacramental moments this Easter Season. There have been numerous baptisms, confirmations and first Communions. Many of these celebrations happen in the context of weekend parish Masses and we’re invited to attend. Why? To remember.
We so easily forget why we do what we do. For example, can you remember your first Communion day? I do. In that era, “chewing” the host was frowned upon and interpreted as disrespectful. I remember almost choking on the host as I did at the rehearsal for that first Communion. I am grateful that interpretation changed years later.
I also remember how excited I was to receive Jesus for the first time. What an experience! How many thousands of times later do we still have that excitement, that enthusiasm?
Sometimes what we do so often becomes very routine, ordinary and uneventful. That’s so sad. We’ve forgotten. Being present at the parish first Communion, seeing all those kids excited about Jesus in their lives is a great opportunity to remember and renew that original first Communion experience.
If the church announcement of the upcoming first Communion Mass is heard merely as a signal to go to another Mass, we miss the opportunity for our personal “first Communion” remembrance.
The church is all about remembering. Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of me.”