The Word Among Us

Lent 2008 Issue

Remember Me

Our memories are not just about the past. 
They help us forge a new future.

Remember Me: Our memories are not just about the past. 
They help us forge a new future.

Computers are a bit like people. With our five senses, we receive input from the world around us. Then with our minds, we analyze this input, decide how we will respond, and store our decision and response in our memory. Similarly, a computer receives input through its keyboard and mouse.

Then it processes this data and displays its response on a monitor, all the while recording its response in the “memory” of its hard drive. In fact, a computer’s hard-drive memory is an essential component. Even the fastest processor would be severely limited if the data storage capacity was too small or became corrupted.

Just as a computer’s memory is vital, so too is our memory vital to the way we think, choose, and act. Our memory holds all kinds of information—good and bad, happy and sad, helpful and useless past experiences—which we draw on each day. Learning how our memory works, how it filters and reacts to the issues of life each day, is particularly important if we want to be transformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

God wants to change and renew the way we think. He wants to show us how to “process” and react to life’s experiences peacefully and without sin. So to help us set off in the right direction, let’s take a closer look at the way our memory works—and the way God can use our memory to help us grow in holiness.

What’s in Your Pocket? Imagine you were walking down the street with a large sum of money in your pocket—more money than you ever had before. What would you do? Would you forget about it, acting as if nothing were different from any other day? Or would that money always be on your mind? Chances are you would check on it over and over again, putting your hand in your pocket just to be sure it’s still there.

This is similar to the way God wants us to treat our life in Christ. He wants us to keep Jesus on our minds all the time. Now we might ask: “How can I possibly keep my attention fixed on Jesus all day long? I have to spend so much of my time focusing on my work.” But the answer is quite simple: Just as parents always have their children on their minds in some way or another—and just as married couples keep one another in their hearts no matter what they’re doing—so too will the work of the Spirit in our lives move us to keep part of our hearts fixed on Jesus, even in our busiest of moments. It is a key spiritual principle that when we remember God and his many deeds, we are moved to worship him and give our hearts to him.

Called to Remember. On a number of occasions, the Old Testament writers and prophets urged the Israelites to recall the works of the Lord. Moses, for instance, told his people: “Remember that you too were once slaves in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, brought you from there with his strong hand and outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15). And the psalmist prayed: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, your wonders of old I will remember” (Psalm 77:12).

We all know the stories. We know about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We know how God raised up Moses and Aaron to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. We know about the plagues and the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. We know how God gave David the courage to defeat Goliath. We know how Joshua won the battle of Jericho and brought the walls down. The question is whether these magnificent works of God propel us to action. After all, that’s why they have come down to us throughout the ages!

The Sacrament of Memory. All of this remembering finds its highest point in the Eucharist, which is itself the sacrament of memory. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples, “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19), and the church has kept that command ever since.

For example, when Paul heard about all the divisions that were brewing in the church in Corinth, he answered by calling the believers there to remember why the Eucharist was so important: It made present the very power of Jesus’ death and resurrection—the power that delivered them from slavery to sin and made them into a new creation (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

This “remembrance” was not supposed to be an empty ritual or a legalistic obligation that they had to fulfill. And the same goes for us today. The Mass is not simply the recollection of an event that occurred two thousand years ago. It is the sacrament of unseen presence, making present to us once again the death of the Lord, even as we look forward to his final triumph.

Paul wanted the memory of Jesus’ cross to be alive in the Corinthians because he knew that when the Mass was celebrated in remembrance of the Lord, it was a powerful instrument of healing and unity. It could even bring an end to the sins that were threatening their ability to remain a church. If only they celebrated the Eucharist this way, Paul was convinced, they would find greater and greater transformation in their lives. They would find themselves delivered from the grip of sin. They would find their minds renewed more and more with every celebration.

Why Remember? God wanted the Israelites to remember him because he knew the power that memory has upon human behavior. Moses explained this quite clearly:

Be careful not to forget the Lord, your God, by neglecting his commandments . . . lest, when you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses and lived in them, and have increased your herds and flocks, your silver and gold, and all your property, you then become haughty of heart and unmindful of the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. (Deuteronomy 8:11-14)

Why did Jesus command us to “Do this in memory of me”? Because the grace of the cross transforms those who keep their eyes on him. Doing this “in memory of me” goes beyond the Mass. It means keeping Jesus’ words and deeds so present in our minds that they move us to live for him. Remembering God helps us to know his presence, and it opens us to his wisdom. By contrast, forgetting God hinders his mighty works and his loving words from influencing the way we think and act.

God doesn’t live in the past—as in a memory of all he did for the Israelites while they were in slavery. Jesus is not just a memory of all that he did on the cross when he set us free from our slavery to sin. No, God is ever present, always taking what he has accomplished or revealed in the past and applying it to our lives today. He is present with us right now, reminding us of his past blessings so that we will be inspired to follow him today and into the future.

Filling our minds with the memory of God and what he has done is one of the most important ways that we can experience his power to heal the hurts that reside in us, the ones we can’t shake. Keeping God in our memories can help us to forgive what seems unforgivable. It helps us bring an end to the sins that nag at us, the ones we can’t seem to control. It helps us when our burdens seem insurmountable. In all of these situations, God can use our memories to take us deeper into his heart—especially when we feel frustrated in our spiritual walk and distant from him. It’s one major way he renews our minds, and that is why it is so important that we remember him.

Remember Jesus Christ. The case we are setting before you is simple: Put the memory of God and his mighty deeds in the forefront of your minds—along with the place your loved ones hold. Better yet, put the memory of God above everyone and everything else.

Every day that we remember God and his marvelous deeds, it is as if we were turning a faucet a little bit more, releasing the flow of God’s grace just a bit more fully. Every day that we put Jesus in the forefront of our hearts, we find his Spirit using our memories to help shape and renew our minds. Yes, it may take a lifetime to completely open that faucet, but you will be surprised at how much easier that faucet is to turn once you begin.

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