Remembrance Sunday

Fr Paul’s sermon:

When this annual Act of Remembrance, which we shall take part in at the end of Mass, was started nearly a hundred years ago, people were actually remembering those that they really remembered and grieved for – sons, fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, fiancés. People they had known personally, who had gone out to France and died on the Somme or elsewhere. We can’t do that. No-one still alive can do that. Even if they are still living, they would have been too small to recall anyone personally. That is nearly true of the Second World War too. You would have to be older than me. My own father fortunately survived, though he might well not have done, but if he had been killed I would have scarcely any memory of him now. You have to be some way older than me to do that.

So we are only remembering at second hand. Remembering things we have been told, remembering the fact that certain things happened. But from our own personal experience we remember that these sort of things are still going on. The Great War To End All War did not do so. Because the peace was mishandled, the seeds were sown for a second war, and since then, in my lifetime, I have known wars in Korea, in Viet-Nam, in Iraq, and even now in Syria and Iraq. To say nothing of civil wars in all sorts of places. Human beings do not seem to know how to live at peace with one another.

Our focus today, if our Act of Remembrance is to mean anything, must be on prayer for peace. Prayer that men and women find some other way to settle their differences than by violence and warfare. We still remember the human cost of failing to do so. Not just the soldiers, sailors and airmen from this country or our allies who paid the price with their lives, but those of our enemies too. As Christians, we still count them as brothers and sisters. And the millions of civilians caught up in conflict, unable to escape. We remember them.

I will be brief. If possible, I like our Act of Remembrance to be as near as possible at the eleventh hour. Armistice Day itself was on Friday. Acts of Remembrance took place in this city and throughout the land, to say nothing of other countries, at the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month. There is significance in this. It reminds us that, though we pray to God for salvation, that salvation may only come at the eleventh hour, when all human hope has been lost. Peace does not come about by merely human effort- history proves that. It is the gift of God, be prayed for and received with humility. One of our Lord’s great titles is Prince of Peace. Let us ask him to send down upon this troubled world the great gift of peace.