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Memory Helps Us Through Tragedy

Judaism and Christianity share a common appreciation for and reliance upon memory. The refrain to a popular hymn states it thus: "We remember, we celebrate, we believe." Our liturgy is based upon memory. We remember what Jesus did for us. As I once read about the Jewish Feast of Passover, the Jews gather each year to remember what God did for them in rescuing them from the oppression of Egypt. By remembering, they make the reality of the Passover present in their own day making it possible for them to participate in it just as surely as their ancestors did. We Christians do exactly the same thing. We gather together around the Table of the Lord and remember what Jesus did for us. In remembering, we make Jesus present among us again. Through communion with Jesus, we participate in his death and resurrection just as surely as our ancestors in the faith did.

Every day we remember certain saints or events. Today we remember the martyr Cristobal Magallanes, a Mexican priest who was martyred during the "Cristero Revolution" of Mexico. Before he died at the hands of the soldiers, he gave them all his possessions, absolved them of their sins, and died for his faith. According to the Roman martyrology, we also remember the martyrs Timothy, Polius, Eutychius, Polieuctus, Victorius, Donatus, Secundinus, Synesius, Theopompus, Nicostratus, Antiochus, Valens, and Secundus, their companions, and a French confessor by the name of Hospitius. We may not know the details of their stories. However, their names are forever inscribed in the memory of the Church.

In the second chapter of the Book of Sirach, we read today, Consider the generations long past and see: has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken? Has anyone called upon him and been ignored? (Sirach 2:10) Therein lies the purpose of memory. We believe that even in the dire circumstances that sometimes beset us, God will not abandon us. Our faith teaches us that even death at the hands of our oppressors does not separate us from God.

Already I have read on the various pages of the Internet comments which basically say that if there was a God, the storm in Oklahoma would not have happened yesterday. All those people would not have died. Our faith teaches us differently. God is with those people as long as we are with those people. While we cannot overcome the natural disasters that this imperfect world visits upon us, we can come to their aid with our prayers and our charity. God has simply given us another opportunity to remember. Our prayers today are with all those who have died and those who mourn their loss.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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