Cemeteries are special places for us – special not just because they are blessed and consecrated by the Church and marked by beautiful and noble monuments. They are special places for us, first and foremost, because it is where we remember one another, where we remember those who have died, who have gone before us in life, our cherished past to whom we owe our present. Remembering is one of the things that especially makes us human. To remember those who have died, as our nation does today and as we do whenever we visit a cemetery, is to acknowledge the importance of their lives - and the common humanity which we share with them in life and in death. Remembering is also one of the things that especially makes us Christian. To remember those who have gone before us in faith, as we do especially here today but every day at every Mass, is to celebrate the multitude of ways in which the grace of God touched and transformed each one of them in life - and the hope we still share with them in death.
So it is good that we gather together today, to remember and pray for our brothers and sisters whose bodies lie here in this holy place. It is, as the author of the book of Maccabees has reminded us [2 Maccabees 12:43-46], a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be purified from their sins and welcomed among the saints, as we too hope someday to be welcomed with them forever.
Homily for Memorial Day at Calvary Cemetery, Knoxville, TN, May 25, 2015.