“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 

Tomorrow we celebrate Memorial Day.

I remember growing up in the ’70s, we always began Memorial Day with a parade. It was a wonderful day to connect with neighbors and friends and get ready for the start of summer. It was also an important day to remember the sacrifices of those who served and died in the armed forces. 

My Dad and two of my brothers served in the Army and Navy. Commemorating their service and the ultimate sacrifice of those who died with red poppies and American flags and prayers, tied the past, present, and future generations under the banner of freedom. 

Lately, the word “freedom” has come into my mind almost daily. As the war in the Ukraine rages,  the United States is fighting battles of its own. On the home front, we are at war in families and communities over abortion and the possible overturning of the controversial Roe vs Wade. 

The rising costs of gas and energy and shortages in foods and commodities are affecting people in many different ways. People are stressed at the grocery stores and the gas pumps. On the heels of a waxing and waning virus that seems like it may never end, Americans are overwhelmed.

Only weeks since the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo which left 10 people dead in a racially charged attack; now we witness in shock and horror as another mass shooting occurs in an elementary school killing 19 children and two teachers. I also read that the widower of one of the teachers suffered a massive heart attack while planning for his wife’s funeral, leaving their young adult children deep in throes of grief.

How do we process this grief? 

There is no easy way of moving on from this — as families and as individuals. As we “celebrate”  the sacrifices others have made for our freedom this Memorial Day, we need to remember the innocent who have lost their lives under the guise of another’s freedom. 

It seems to me that we’ve got it all turned upside down and few people are listening to others outside of their own point of view. We are so used to expressing opinions behind a computer screen and clicking on emoticons to show our approvals and disapprovals that we have forgotten how to have real conversations. 

The sanctity of human life is at risk in our society today. We left the conversations we started having years ago when Roe vs Wade was enacted to make abortion “safe, legal and rare” and morphed into abortion on demand at any time in pregnancy and at all costs under the guise of personal freedom and a woman’s right to choose to terminate the life of her unborn child. 

Also under the banner of freedom, others tout the constitutional right to bear arms without limitations to acquire and possess weapons like the ones an 18-year-old used to murder the elementary school children and teachers in the Uvalde massacre and a crazed racist used in the grocery store in Buffalo. 

How can this still be happening?

How is it that in our pursuit of freedom, we have lost sight of human lives — the very ones who the framers of our Constitution were striving to protect?  

We stand at the precipice of a cliff and we are marching headlong over, not seeing that innocent victims are being tossed over the edge as we stand our ground for freedom. We need to do more protect human life and end the suffering even when it means giving up some of our own freedoms to do so. 

On Tuesday, only hours before the shooting, this verse came up as part of my morning prayer: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). I wrote the verse down in my journal as I reflected on how the Spirit of God inspires me to live my life in freedom so as to love and protect others. I don’t get to pick and choose and use my freedom in the Spirit to harm others because of the primacy of Jesus’ command to love others as He has loved me.

Then on Thursday, in the midst of the darkness of grief, Jo and I attended daily Mass and again the Spirit spoke to my heart as I prayed with the church. The Mass was a celebration of the Lord’s ascension into heaven. 

One of the scriptures the priest spoke about was the account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11. The context was that Jesus had died, was resurrected, and spent time with his disciples preparing them to live life without him physically present. 

Even as Jesus spoke, there were murmurs and questions among the disciples about when he would restore political order to the kingdom of Israel. Jesus answered them by promising them the consolation and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit who would soon come. 

Then, Jesus was lifted up to heaven before their eyes and the scripture says; “While they were looking intently at the sky, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them and said:

“Men of Galilee, why are standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

The priest expounded on these words in light of the painful issues we face in the world and society today and especially in this week of profound sadness. He pointed out that we are not called as the church to just stand here looking up to heaven, waiting for the Lord to return. We are called to reach out in love to one another in the power of the Spirit and in freedom we have in Christ which cannot be found in any political party or opinions. 

His homily caused me to reflect on how easy it is to sit here staring at heaven and offering prayers for victims — hoping that legislative actions and political parties will somehow bring us back from the precipice of this cliff. 

There is work to be done for the sake of freedom for all humanity from the womb until natural death. The sanctity of all human life is at stake. 

The Lord promises the Spirit brings freedom and heaven answers our prayers with a question, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”

Who is freedom for if not for the living? 

We pray,  but we must also act and vote, for the cause of the living and in memory of the dead. 

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Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen