When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: June 6 is D-Day for anyone in the United States or Europe. We remember the largest sea-to-land invasion in history, when American and British forces began the drive for Berlin that would end the Second World War. Nearly all the young men who took part in that event have died. Their children will remember this anniversary with sadness and gratitude, but eventually they too will pass into history; and the painful memories associated with June 6 will fade into the pages of our history books. Only the most sentimental will pause to remember, ponder, relive and weep over the carnage of that day.
Today, seventy-two years later, the Catholic Church takes up again the Gospel of Saint Matthew. We open to the fifth chapter and consider the initial words of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. We again hear him speak of his people -- the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers and so forth. The quiet authority of his voice contrasts sharply with the noise and violence of D-Day.
There is little need for my underlining that contrast. We're all aware of it. If some of us still feel passionate allegiance to one side of that conflict and hatred for the other, I have no quarrel with them. My dad and my uncles took part in the war but they all came home relatively unscathed.
Knowing today what few people knew on D-Day, about the genocide of Jews, gypsies and others, it appears that justice and right were with the Allies. But I know enough of history to understand why Hitler came to power in Germany, after the tragedy of the First World War. Eventually, time and history find enough blame to go around; there are victims who do not deserve their cruel treatment, but no innocents in our world.
On this Monday of early summer, we listen to Jesus' familiar exhortation. We consider the kind of people he calls his own and wonder if we fit among them.
We pray that we will be more willing to live with the poverty that encroaches upon the middle class; the grief that is everyone's lot; the defenselessness of the meek; and the persistence of the peacemakers.
After the end of the Second World War there were successful efforts to make peace with the Germans and the Japanese. World leaders established financial and political institutions that enabled reconstruction and new construction. Well into the 1960's, despite the Cold War, even nations that had not been touched by the war enjoyed growth and prosperity. By the 1980's The War was forgotten and greed regained its momentum among the western nations.
The commemoration of D-Day and the words of Jesus remind us that peace is possible in our world; we have only to listen to God's spirit.