|Posted on June 20, 2019 at 3:00 PM|
5th Sunday of Lent C
Remember and Forget
Fr. Joselito Ramos, AM
I love thinking and reminiscing about the good times in my life --- the joys of my childhood, vacations and trips with family or friends, all the fun I had during my high school years, and the many wonderful seminary experiences I had on my journey to the priesthood. I love re-reading letters and greeting cards from years ago; and other heartfelt thoughts and words from old friends and special people in my life. I love recalling where I was and what I was doing every time I hear a song that takes me back to a specific memory. And I love looking at old pictures --- seeing images of people and places and events that meant so much to me. I guess you could say that I just love remembering.
Many of you probably feel the same way. And when we begin losing our memories, I guess, because the accumulation of years, it can be heartbreaking. We dread the day when we look at an old photograph and can’t figure out who the people in the picture are or can’t remember the circumstances under which it was taken. We dread the day when we can’t recall a name or a date or a place or an experience that were few years back so easy to remember.
Now, who among us would think that forgetting sometimes is a good thing?
From today’s Scripture readings it would seem so. In the First Reading, the Lord (through Isaiah, the prophet) tells us to, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!”
The passage from Isaiah, God seems to be encouraging the Jewish people to forget and to not dwell on their hardships, to not carry hatred or bitterness in their hearts for what they have suffered at the hands of others throughout their history. God is telling them and promising that there are better days ahead. Their story is not complete instead tells them to be ready for something wonderful. God wants them to hold on to hope.
And then in the Gospel story from John we have the woman who had been caught in adultery and had almost been put to death for it. This story is a powerful one. I especially like to think about what happened AFTER this story, after she returned home. Did her life change? Did SHE change? Did the people around her change? Did she take the words of Jesus to heart? I would like to believe so. Yet, for her to truly become a “new person,” and be transformed, she would have needed to be good at “forgetting.”
First, she would need to forgive herself. She would need to not continue to define herself by what she had done in the past, and to allow the words of Jesus to take root in her heart. Secondly, she would need to be able to forgive those who had accused her, those who judged her and condemned her. She needs to forget.
And yet, she also needs to remember. “Remembering” have a central role in the story. You see, I don’t think the woman was the only one changed. I like to think that the scribes and Pharisees and others present that day left changed too. But first, Jesus had to get them to “remember” and to look upon their own failings, faults and sins. Some Scripture commentators argue that Jesus confronted those self-confident Jews with the record of their own sins by writing them on the ground before the whole crowd to witness. Upon seeing their own sins written on the ground, they became ashamed of themselves. And one by one they left, each walking away contemplating on his/her own individual needs for forgiveness, mercy and compassion. It seems that everyone in the story needed a second chance.
Lent is almost over. Hopefully, it has been a fruitful one for all. If not, it’s not too late. No, we continue our Lenten journey --- in the hope that, come Easter morning, we will be changed, transformed, get a fresh start --- and be made new, because it is about all about second chance.
But to make that possible and to allow God to change us it involves “a little bit of remembering and a whole lot of forgetting.”
We remember our sins so that we can be honest with ourselves. We remember our failings so that we can make better choices.
We remember the countless ways we have hurt ourselves or others by our selfishness so that God can wash the ugliness away and help us be the beautiful, loving, generous people he created us to be.
But then we also need to forget.
Forget the ways we have been hurt by others.
Forget the things we regret and the things of which we are ashamed of.
Forget the ways our lives have not gone exactly as planned.
Forget the grudges and the slights and the insults.
Forget the times others have suffered because of our actions. Forget the sins in us and the sins of others.
“Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’”
May we take these words to heart . . . . and then offer them to others.