For Remembrance Sunday: “Getting our inside world put right”

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.

Then you can see God in the outside world.

 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

I don’t know anyone who is only one thing. Our human hearts are messy places, with both holy and pure, brightly lit bits, and confused and grey and self-centred, broken and dark bits all mixed in. We are all works in progress, and our faith, our God offers us the possibility of growing, learning, transforming- becoming more pure of heart, as we seek to follow God’s ways.

One of the struggles I have with Remembrance Day is that there is always the danger of crossing the line from honouring sacrifices, and moving into the unfortunate territory of glorifying war. I have spent enough time with veterans of war and conflict to understand, if only a little bit, that nothing good comes of glorifying war.

On a basic level, whenever we are reduced to violence, it is because we are in a position in which the option of rising above pettiness to build a loving solution no longer seems viable. This is a tragic place to be. It is good for us to take time on Remembrance Day to reflect on what it costs in human lives, whenever people, and countries act like they have run out of options.

War is a terrible thing for humans to do to each other.

Those words from Matthew’s Gospel that we heard earlier present with us a good challenge, and the only real solution to the problem:

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.

Then you can see God in the outside world.”

The place where we can do the most to work for peace, is inside of us, and other people. When our hearts and minds are put right, or at least more right, then we are all more likely to see God, and Godly solutions to our issues with other people.

Knowing that we do not, at present, live in a world where most people’s hearts and minds have been put right, tells us that there is still holy work to be done.

In the mean time, we can take inspiration and hope from knowing that there are people who accept responsibility to place themselves in dangerous situations, even as they hope and pray that another way can be found to resolve our problems.

A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of meeting a Canadian naval officer named Emily, on the occasion of her impending marriage to another naval officer, David. Emily is an impressive young woman. She is a talented writer.

Because of a family connection, we were able to ask Emily to write a Remembrance Day reflection for us, which I would now like to read:

Remembrance Day – A reflection from the ranks

Some people go through life having no real connection to the Canadian Forces.  Most are limited to a distant relative who wears the uniform or a great grandfather who died alone in the middle of Germany in WWII.

I had grandparents who served but there was never any pressure to join to continue the tradition.  Growing up in Ontario there is little exposure to the military and I certainly did not dream about being a Naval Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy.  Remembrance Day for me when I was younger was a day when I stood out in the freezing rain with others and listened to names I didn’t recognize being read and watched wreaths being laid by decorated veterans.  There was no real connection for me.  Even when I joined the Canadian Forces and went through basic training I didn’t feel connected.  I made it through the long hard days with an 80lbs ruck sack on my back, a rifle in my hand and a prayer for my next meal and chance to sleep driving me forward –  not a sense of pride or tradition or of following the footsteps of those taken before me.  I felt no real connection until I met Kendra Mellish.

Kendra Mellish was, to keep things simple, a serving mother who was married to a serving husband.  Together they served in the army and the only reason I would have ever met her was because she was taking her commission to become an Officer.  We knew of each other but didn’t know each other.  We worked together, trained together, and struggled together during basic training which creates a bond; therefore I will always have this connection with her. 

At the end of our course there was a graduation parade and reception afterwards.  Kendra sought permission from command to miss graduation in order to spend a few more days with her husband who was going off to Afghanistan shortly after she returned from training.  Since we all understood the gravity of Afghanistan her request was quickly approved and she left for home.  Within the first two months of her husbands tour he was killed by an IED (improvised explosive device). 

I never met her husband – but I knew her, I knew she loved him, and I knew they had kids and a family in Petawawa.  And now he was gone.  Now there was a gap in their lives.  Now she would wake up every morning without her husband and her kids without a father.  I grieved for this man I never knew and for the family without their father, and it finally sunk in. 

A gap—a hole—a pit; a missing piece of your soul.  This is what is left behind when someone is lost.  When you lose someone, part of grieving and moving on is to fill this gap, hole, or pit with something of substance.  Some people fill it with happy memories, others with reaching out to those in need.  Some take up hobbies, live more adventurously, while others finally learn to live a full life. 

What makes remembering those we lost during war and conflict important is that it is a collective loss.   The world not only lost their sons, daughters, fathers, husbands, and brothers – we lost a part of our future.  During the World Wars whole towns and cities gave up their strongest men for war and often they did not return.  Whole communities had to learn to carry on without their working members and together they grieved for those lost forever.  Who could the men and women we’ve lost grown up to be?  Did we lose the doctor who could have cured cancer; did we lose inventors, and scientists and teachers who could have made a significant impact?

Those lost to war and conflict lose their future.  They lose the opportunity to grow as an individual, to fall in love, create a family and grow old.  They lose the opportunities afforded to us which we all too often take for granted.  And they do this willingly.  They make a mental decision to join the military although there is an inherent risk of injury and death because the goals are bigger than the risk.  To defend the civil rights of Canadians, to end conflict, to deter war and inhumane atrocities.  To maintain our freedoms and liberties.  To secure our future. 

Today I ask you to remember those lost, past and presently, by finding a small way to make your life and the life of those around you that much better.  Live a full and happy life and honour the men and women who have given up their lives for serving you and Canada.  Honour their lost opportunity at life by living yours extraordinarily.   Amen

1 Comment

  1. Kendra Mellish says:

    Thank – you for your respect.

    Pro Patria

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