The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Remembered

 I will never forget you.
Isaiah 49:15

            The religion of Jesus Christ teaches us that high in the noble catalogue of divine attributes, perfections properly so called, is God’s omniscience, a compound of the Latin words for “all” and for “knowledge.”  Newman pointed out the folly of following reason where in the nature of things reason cannot go.   The word omniscience is a verbal pointer down a path whose end we can never reach.   The mind of man cannot really comprehend the truth that there is One before whom all of time, with its texture of events and thoughts and actions stands open, One who knows what we see as past and what we see as future in His present, who knows what we have done and what we will do, One for whom there is in fact no tomorrow, One who knows our ends but whose knowledge does not cause us to follow the path we choose.   Isaiah tells us that He knew us in our mother’s womb (49:1) and Our Lord teaches us that Our Father knows what we need before we ask (Luke 6:22).  

In the quiet of the night and in noonday glare we know that we are never alone. In the nineteenth century a favorite motto, inscribed beneath a seeing eye, was “Thou Lord Seest.”   It is innate to the created order that every creature is known to God, and it is the gift of Pentecost that the baptized are known through their supernatural sharing in the divine life.   No creature is ever forgotten by the Creator, and it is certain in a personal and particular way that the baptized are never forgotten, never alone, for Jesus’ promise that He would send the Comforter was fulfilled, indwelling God’s holy people.    He promised that we would abide in Him and He in us (John 15:4).  He is nearer to us than our own hearts.

God’s knowledge of every creature is not the knowledge of a spectator but the knowledge of a Father, of a Creator who made them, and indeed more.  Knowing us He does not leave us alone, for divine love does not neglect, it informs.  His providence goes before us.   Providence means “to provide for,” “to see beforehand,” and the word denotes the fact that God prepares our way, a way not free of evil and its effects but the way He has provided.   True, we are not compelled to walk in the way He has given us, and for those rebellious choices He has heuristic remedies.  “The Lord disciplines him whom He loves and chastises every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).   

          Our Maker will always remember us.    He has kept us in His love all the days of our lives.   Just as we were in the mind of God at the foundation of the world, at our birth, and on every day of the path we choose, just so He will remember us at the end, for the meaning of our lives is made clear when we see Him face to face.  

We are our memory, and while it is not possible that God will forget us, it is possible that we may forget him.  For this reason the greatest gift is not the reiteration of the law but the gift of a person who is to be remembered throughout all time.   Jesus prescribed a certain action and He gave that action a certain purpose.   The action was the ritual breaking of bread and drinking from a cup, offered with a blessing, that was associated with a supper the teacher shared with His disciples, the chaburah rooted deep in the popular culture of Israel, in this case made holy by its taking place at Passover, with the one offering no ordinary teacher but the Son of God.  This traditional sharing of bread and wine became the central action of the Christian world as it was elevated from ritual to sacramental reality and given a divine purpose.    The bread and wine would become the body and blood of Jesus.   The supper would be eaten not merely as natural nourishment but as supernatural food and that for a purpose, so that Jesus would be remembered throughout all times and ages.   “Do this in remembrance of me.”    The Greek for “remembrance” used in the institution narratives of Luke 22:19 and First Corinthians 11:24 is not the simple word mnēsis which means “remembrance” or “that which is retained in memory,” but the word anamnēsis, which attaches the prefix ana, a preposition that is characteristically associated with upward motion.  Plato uses it to describe the act by which we bring something up from the realm of the forgotten but not forgotten.  Even in ordinary use when we bring something up we are bringing it from the storehouse of things remembered into this present. The institution narrative is the Lord’s command that we bring Him into our present under the form of bread and wine, and it was ever understood in this way for the Eucharist did not bring to memory Jesus’ deeds in Galilee but brought the divine-human person into our present, there to inform memory until He comes again.  

Christ does not forget us, but we may forget Him, even those who live in His Church may grow forgetful.    This forgetting, our failure to remember our Maker may begin with rebellion, but in modernity it more commonly begins with neglect, and from that neglect flows sin. The vast apparatus of modernity, with its noise, its technological enchantment,   the steady polemic against tradition, its successful deletion of pain from ordinary experience, is framed to encourage forgetfulness, and especially forgetfulness of God.   It is possible to look into the world and to see both in the Church and outside it a human race that has lost interest in God, if by God we mean One who informs our thoughts and conditions our behavior.   This forgetting of God who will never forget us has an awful cost. “They became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools…. Therefore God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts” (Romans 1:22–24).   

            How one escapes this blindness in a forgetful world is difficult to say.   Perhaps there is a book or a teacher.    Some unexpected witness or circumstance of life.   We do have one Biblical example of sudden recollection:  the story of the rebellious son who took his patrimony, wasted it on vain objects, and finally was so far reduced as to desire the food given swine.  He had forgotten who he was.  But then he remembered his father’s house, came to himself, and said, “I will arise and go home” (Luke 15: 11–32).   The Church has never maintained that this forgetting of God, this failure of memory, is a merely natural event; it is always encouraged by the Other Side.   Nor is remembering Him in a way that makes Him the center less than supernatural.   Who remembers and who forgets is answered by the solemn doctrines of providence and predestination and election, truths which like God’s omniscience tempt the mind to go further than it can.       

But there is this fact:   if you have not forgotten God, you are among the Blessed.    Give thanks.   

 

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