Sermon for Sunday 13 November 2022 – Remembrance Sunday
See more, to see more.
That was the tagline I spotted the other day on an advert for the National Art Pass. It encouraged people to buy a National Art Pass, so they get into exhibitions and galleries cheaper.
It’s a really clever slogan in my view. See more to see more.
By getting that pass, you can visit galleries more often and take time out to ponder art, to literally see more of the stuff. But at a deeper, metaphorical level, that advert tells us something else. In seeing more art we become able to perceive better, to see more in the sense of being able to understand more deeply, to know the world more truthfully, to discern more wisely.
One of the things I think we are called to do each Remembrance Sunday is quite simply to see more. We are called to look beyond the surface level of our physical existence and see the deeper, fuller truth that undergirds our world, namely the truth of eternity in Christ.
For the culture in which we live actually sees very little of reality. It is deeply materialistic, consumerist, and places hardly any value on anything beyond what is provable by empirical science. Money and power are the arbiters of what is perceived to be right or true or best.
And yet, we are presented today by our remembrance of those who gave themselves for others in war with a very different vision. A vision in which paying the ultimate sacrifice can be the cost of justice and peace. A vision in which we know that those who seem dead and long forgotten are in fact alive and remembered in Christ. A vision in which through terrible trauma and war can come reconciliation and new beginnings.
It is fascinating to me that so many of the places where our remembrance takes place have a physical focus that helps us to call to mind those who have died. Think of the Cenotaph in Whitehall; the war memorial in a small village; the symbolic power of a cardboard poppy; indeed the catafalque at our All Souls’ Day Requiem.
We need particular places and objects in order to be prompted to see more, to look beyond the here and now and perceive deeper truths and deeper realities that exist into eternity.
Those catafalques and cenotaphs and poppies are, if you like, sacraments of our eschatological identity. They are an outward and visible sign of an inward hope rooted in Christ.
So if our Remembrance gives us a deeper vision of reality, what difference does that make to our every day lives? How does that seeing more make us better people?
The reason Christians seek peace and justice is not simply because these are the best way of ordering human society. No, we seek them because they are signs of the Kingdom of God. In this life, it may be necessary to make war in the defence of justice and equity, but in the peace that follows and which is just as important, we see a sign of our ultimate end – eternal life with God in perfect harmony and communion with him and each other.
So Remembrance helps us see the signs of God’s Kingdom about us, and it prompts us to want to help make it present – through good works and charitable giving, through how we treat people, through how we vote, through how we value the earth, through what we buy and where we buy it.
But there’s also another thing that remembrance prompts in us. It helps us look at the past with gratitude. It prompts us to encounter the world with a thankful heart, and to see God’s hand in all that is good and peaceful and courageous.
So today’s Remembrance actually tells us something about how we should approach life more generally the rest of the year – coming to God with a spirit of thankful gratitude, open to his Kingdom.
As we remember this morning the sacrifice of those who have fallen in war, our remembrance helps us to see more, to see deeper, to see better. It prompts us to realise the living communion we have with all the departed, and it calls us to seek God’s Kingdom in the hear and now.
So as we come to God with grateful thanks for what we have received, we lift our hearts now in the ultimate act of thanksgiving and remembrance it is possible to make. For we offer the Mass day in day out in remembrance of him in whom all live, and who is the very Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ.
Fr Peter Anthony