This year is one of the latest that the Easter season can be, with the Ascension coming next weekend, and Pentecost the following weekend.
Let us not lose our focus this Easter season on the importance of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For without our belief in the resurrection, our faith would be meaningless.
The upcoming celebrations of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost signal for us great transformation in the world. These things remind us of what is truly important in our lives . . . God, family and friends, giving and receiving, and unselfish love that inspires us to really care about those who are less fortunate and those who are the most vulnerable, the unborn.
At the same time, we also celebrate the Memorial Day weekend with the great honor of calling off the names of those men and women of our small towns, cities, state, and country who have fought in the great wars. It is a very special weekend in that it honors the nation’s armed services personnel killed in wartime.
This holiday was originally called Decoration Day because it is a time for decorating graves with flowers and flags. Over time, the designation Memorial Day became much more popular.
To give us a little background, many local observances to honor the war dead in the United States became widespread following the American Civil War (1861-1865), which had taken close to a million lives. In 1868, General Logan of a Union veteran’s group issued an order to designate May 30th as a day for ‘strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion (Civil War), and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.’
After World War I (1914-1918), Memorial Day observances were changed to honor the dead in all American wars, starting with the American Revolution. The US Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971, and changed the date of observance from May 30 to the last Monday in May to give workers a three-day weekend.
Memorial Day, as you know, is marked by parades, speeches, and the decoration of graves. Traditionally, the president or vice president places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, and small flags are placed on all the graves. Many people choose to visit family graves on Memorial Day.
Memorial Day weekend also seems to mark the beginning of summer activities, such as picnics and trips to the beach.
Let us remember that many soldiers paid an incredible price of giving their lives that we might live in freedom, especially religious freedom. We are able to celebrate Easter, the Ascension of the Lord, and Pentecost precisely because these men and women were willing to sacrifice their lives for the many freedoms we enjoy.
Let us give thanks to God many times this weekend and throughout the year for such brave and unselfish soldiers!