A friend of mine, Virginia Malicoat, grew up in the oil town of Phillips, Texas. It was a company town and that town no longer exists. It was dismantled by the Phillips Petroleum Company and carted away for safety reasons back in the 1980’s.
For many years, Virginia and her classmates would gather each summer for a class reunion during which they would visit the site where the town once stood. Of course, there was not much left to see, just the old high school, a grid of streets and miles of crumbling sidewalks that lead to cracked foundations where houses once stood.
Everything else was gone.
A couple years ago, Virginia wrote a book about growing up in Phillips. Its title is “Stained Glass and Railroad Tracks.” In the book, she tells of standing on the sidewalk that once led to the house where she grew up. As she stood there, imagining the old house, she recalled a picture from her childhood, a snapshot of her brother, John, on the day that he returned from the war. She was an infant at that time. This is what she writes:
He is holding me in his arms on the top step of our parents’ porch. I am looking and pointing at the camera. He, on the other hand, is looking at me, and the joy on his face is telling everyone that he is thrilled to have a baby sister.
He would look at me with the same smile in so many pictures throughout the years.
My brother, John, who died much too young.
Put yourself in Virginia’s place for just a moment. Imagine how she felt standing on that broken-down sidewalk remembering her brother who came back from the war and held her in his arms.
If she could, how would she express her gratitude to him today? How would she convey her appreciation for his love?
I share her experience with you today because it to illustrates the reason why you and I are here, at Mass, today. Christ, our Brother, has returned from the war. He fought for us. He died for us. Yet, we also know that He rose from the dead for us.
Is not the victory cry, “Risen from the dead!” another way of saying “Home from the war!”
If so, imagine, for a moment the expression on his face, the confidence in his smile, the joy in his eyes! This brother of ours, home from the Great War, the War against Evil and every manifestation of Sin, that sinister force that still, today, would destroy the soul of humanity and the hope of the world if not for the victory of Christ, risen from the dead.
Yes, our Brother, here today, home from the war!
How do we render our gratitude?
The answer is as simple as it is profound: Communion.
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not communion in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break, is it not communion
in the body of Christ?
Communion. The sole reason that we come to Mass. To be one with Him. To be “on-the-same-page” with Him. To fall into his embrace. To offer ourselves to Him as He offers himself to us…with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength!
Our Brother, home from the war. Not posing for a photograph on a sidewalk in some dismantled town, but present, today, in the sanctuary of this church.
Not standing on the stoop of long-ago house, but bounding up these altar steps, leading us on the stairway to Heaven.