Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The 1st reading from Mass this morning (3-17—Wednesday of the 4th Week of Lent and not, I hasten to add, the “solemnity” of St. Patrick!) comes from Isaiah (49:8-15), ending with the famous appeal:
But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

The great thing in this reading is the play between forgetting and remembering, and between the deliberate choice as opposed to the accidental occurrence.

We know that women tragically have abortions; this gives the lie (the Biblical writer would have been shocked) to the idea a woman could be without tenderness for the child in her womb. Yet this is not “forgetting” in the sense to which Isaiah is referring: this is choice to ignore. Based on my experiences in counseling and Reconciliation, I can assure folks that many, many women do not in fact forget the child that was in their womb, and they live (painfully) with the reality of their choice for years afterward, in much grief.

But beyond this, we realize that we as human beings are all too prone to things slipping our minds (I am not even referring here to “Senior moments”). This “accidental” forgetting is precisely what God assures the people will never happen: the LORD will always remember the Chosen People. This is critical since it is only God’s active remembering that allows things to remain in existence at all.

We as humans must make special efforts to “remember,” and that is why our celebration of Eucharist, among many other things, is also referred to as a memorial: it is our gathering explicitly to remember the sufferings, death and resurrection of our Lord (called anamnesis in liturgical language) and to give thanks to God that our Lord continually remembers (and therefore makes Himself present to us in the Sacrament):
We remember, we celebrate, we believe.

God, however, can choose to forget: Jeremiah 31:31-34 declares that in the new covenant God will “forgive our iniquity and remember our sins no more”—they will cease to exist! God does not simply choose to ignore or overlook our sins and “pretend” we are made righteous (this is what theologians refer to as forensic justification: we are declared righteous even if we are not truly so). By forgetting our sins, we are really, completely, made righteous through the mercy of God and the redemptive power of the Son’s Cross and Resurrection and the ongoing action of the Holy Spirit.

I want my sins completely destroyed. I don’t want to hear God’s Word saying to me, “Yes, but…” I want to hold on to the promise made by St. Paul (II Corinthians 1:18-20) that in Christ God’s only word to us is YES. This forgiveness implies repentance and change of heart and life. It means that we can let God be God and be greater than our hearts’ condemnations (I John 4:19-20). It means that there is Good News for me, if only I make my YES back to God in Christ.

Lent is the time when we can see more clearly where we need to make that YES (and therefore a NO to other kinds of behaviors and attitudes that we might have). Easter is the promise that our YES is transformed in the ultimate YES of the Resurrection.

Are we ready for God to do some forgetting, and for us to do some remembering?


  1. Father, you passed on several thoughts: God will always remember the Chosen People ---- most of us have placed that description on the Jewish people..........

    Also, taking out of context: " This is critical since it's only God's active remembering that allows things to remain in existence at all." This boggles my mind -- this is profound -- so He forgets, the end comes?
    But since he will never forget, why make this inference?

  2. Yes, the Jews are the Chosen People, but the secret of God from the beginning is that we Gentiles are also now part of the Chosen People (see Ephesians 3:4-6.
    And yes, God can choose to forget (She'ol is described as the land of the forgotten--or oblivion--Psalm 88:13. Yes, when God chooses to "forget," the End comes (and all is re-constituted as the Messianic Kingdom/Messianic Wedding Feast of the Lamb). The "2nd Death" (Rev. 20:13-15) is really the process by which God "forgets" those who have definitively and permanently chosen to be unrepentant. It can be called the "wrath of God" or just pure and simple justice...