The Power of Remembering

March 21, 2021

If I asked you to recall a gift you received that had true meaning to you, after some careful thought you could name it.  If I asked you to express an experience that you had that was life-changing, you could share it without hesitation.  While those might be enriching, if I asked you to recall the name of someone who hurt you deeply, that name would most likely instantaneously come to mind.  Our memory of hurt and pain amplifies the speed of recall.

Memory is a powerful thing.  One time while running on the lakefront in Chicago I stopped to read something painted on the path.  It said “help me to remember never to forget the pain you caused me.”  I was a bit stunned and felt for the person who wrote it and the one who was meant to see it.  Memories are powerful.  At times we live in the memories of the past and we give them power.

Today in the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we are told of the powerful memory that God wants to instill in all of us.  He longs to be known and to be known for mercy.  God tells the people that they will know Him best because He will not only forgive their evildoing, but He remembers their sin no more.  Our God is to be known as the God who remembers our sin no more.  It does not get more powerful than this.  It doesn’t get more profound than this.  The challenge then becomes forgiving ourselves.  Too often we remember and we give power to our wrongdoing and the wrongdoing of others.

There was a story of two monks heading back to the monastery, talking along the way about the goodness of God.  On their journey, they came to a river.  The river was very wide, and on the shore they encountered a woman who longed to get across but could not swim.  She asked for help.  One of the monks offered to help. He got on his knees and allowed the woman to get on his shoulders; he hoisted her up and then made his way to the other side.  The other monk also crossed the river in front of them.  As they reached the other shore, he helped the woman down from his shoulders and she went her way, thanking the monk for the help.  As the two began their trek back up, the two did not speak and there was silence between them.  As the time passed by and it had been two hours since crossing the river, they were getting close to the monastery.  Finally, the one who had helped the woman stopped and said, “Why the silence?  What is wrong?”  The other monk blurted out his frustration with him.  He said, “You know we are not to have any contact with a woman, we are not to talk to anyone outside the monastery, yet you did both.”  The first monk, the one who had done the lifting said, “I put her down two hours ago, why haven’t you?”

We carry so many things.  Only one needs carrying and reminding:  God remembers our sin no more.

Father John Ouper