Friday, January 27, 2006

The Lord Remembers

It may be that we are forgetful, but thanks be to God, He is not. The Lord always remembers us in our needs, and He always provides for us according to his mercy and providence.

For the Lord, to “remember” is to hear our prayer. “The people of Israel…cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God. And God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God saw the people of Israel, and God knew their condition” (Exodus 2:23-25). To remember them was to come to their aid and deliver them. Likewise, when Hannah prayed for a son, “the Lord remembered her; and in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son” (1Samuel 1:19-20). And Our Lady sang of the Lord: “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy” (Luke 1:54).

Zechariah, the father of St John the Forerunner, was also remembered by the Lord. It was only fitting, since “Zechariah” means “The Lord remembers.” When his miraculous son was born, Zechariah’s tongue was loosed and he uttered a prophecy, praising the God who promised “to remember his holy covenant” (Luke 1:72).

So we know that in remembering his holy covenant, God is fulfilling his promises to us and hearing our prayers. The covenant that God now remembers is the new covenant in the chalice of Jesus’ precious blood, as the Lord announced at the Last Supper. This covenant is sealed by the death and resurrection of Jesus. All God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ, and the Lord would have us remember that: Do this in remembrance of Me. That sacramental power of remembrance is an essential element in making the paschal mystery of Christ present on our altars.

Today, when so many people feel alone, alienated, depressed, despairing, etc, it would be good if they knew that God remembered them and has plans for their welfare. Probably one of the greatest sufferings a human being can endure, worse even than being mistreated by others, is simply to be forgotten. One of the great curses uttered against enemies in the Old Testament is that their names be forgotten, that their memory be cut off. Hell is the place where that curse is ultimately fulfilled. One’s sufferings there are bad enough already, but on top of that is the most painful realization that nobody cares, nobody remembers you any more. You are wholly forgotten by all, and the elect rejoice forever without a single thought of you. Perhaps that is one reason why the Byzantine funeral service concludes with the prayer: “Let his (or her) memory be eternal!” Let them go to the place where they will never be forgotten. And we also pray thus for various intentions: “May the Lord God remember in his kingdom...”

We ought to find some consolation in the fact that the Lord knows us, remembers us, sees our need and wants to help us. Even if we drift away, He looks for us like the father of the prodigal son. In our shame or suffering we may say: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” But He replies: “Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should have no compassion of the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands…” (Isaiah 49:14-16).

Turn to the Lord, for He is already turned toward you. He will never fail or forsake us. “The Lord remembers us, and He will bless us!” (Psalm 115:12).