One of the things Father Thompson left me that I still love to use is a good United States flag on a pole to hang outside the rectory door. I forgot to put it up on Flag Day (14 June) and am still kicking myself for that. So every day this week, I have been asking myself whether it is too early to put it up for Independence Day.
The flag is remarkably important to me. Usually we have a fine one flying from the pole on the campus during school days. My first year here I insisted on getting a new one because the old one was visibly tattered and quite faded. Now I still get agitated if it is raised incompletely or incorrectly. That flag means a lot.
It is not just that I am a Boy Scout. If you think about it, I spend a lot of my time taking care of various symbols to show regard for the things that they signify. The church itself – the building, not the institution – is a symbol of Christ’s presence here in Four Corners. So, I insist that it not be tattered or faded, as far as economical reality permits.
That is why a number of our parishioners put their time and effort into taking care of all the things around here. Our landscape volunteers and donors, for example, pour their sweat into making the grounds beautiful – maybe even letting their own yards languish. Industrious folks work in the sacristy, or with the altar flowers and decorations, to keep the things inside the church beautiful. Similarly, our CYO Board not only keeps the back field and playground ready for play, but cares for it as a part of this parish that welcomes guests, and hosts activities. Other parishioners fix or paint, as their skills allow.
In every case, the object that we can handle and care for is not as important in itself as is the greater reality it represents. We can’t completely express our love for Christ with a gesture, but we can care for His church, the chalice that holds His Precious Blood, and the pew where His sisters and brothers will kneel to adore him.
Our faith informs us of the importance of relationships, both human and super-human. You can hug your kids today, as the old bumper sticker says, but you couldn’t hug God any more than you could kiss our country. So, how do we show our care and respect for these very large but very real entities in our lives? By caring for the objects that connect us to them.
Our Catholic worship contains many symbols for us to interact with. One of my favorites is the Holy Altar that symbolizes Christ Himself (particularly in his entombment), and so it is with great affection that I greet Him with a kiss when I arrive in the sanctuary, and similarly bid farewell as I leave. Of course, one of the symbols in our church is more than just a symbol, for it truly is what it signifies: the Holy Eucharist, Christ’s Body and Blood. And as we celebrated last week, our relationship with our Lord in the Eucharist is more than symbolic.
So this weekend, let’s fly the flag both literally and figuratively, thanking God for the gifts He has given us in our Church and in our nation. Regardless of who else salutes, you and I can and will revere these symbols of the source and place of the freedom we cherish.