A couple weeks ago at Mass (the 5th Sunday of Lent) we heard two Scripture passages about leaving the past behind. The first reading included this:
“Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Is 43:18-19)
And from the second reading:
“Brothers and sisters, I for my part
do not consider myself to have taken possession.
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,
the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12-14)
Leave behind the good
Did you notice that both these readings talk about leaving behind the good things in one’s past? Yes, in Moses’ time, God led His people through the Red Sea. But now He is doing something new. St. Paul had natural gifts and was one of God’s chosen people. But he chose to forget them.
Why would we want to forget the good things God did in the Old Testament or the gifts He has given us?
Because they can’t open Heaven’s gates to us.
Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, but their behavior in the desert showed they were still slaves to sin. (In John 8, the Gospel from last Wednesday, Jesus says the Jews who reject His teaching are also still slaves to sin.)
St. Paul followed the Law to a “T.” And then he arrested Christians and had them put to death.
The Israelites died in the desert. The unbelieving Jews had Jesus crucified. The Law, great as it was, could not save them.
Only Jesus could. St. Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He had to be born again, start life over. He knew now that he could not save himself and that his obedience to the Law was rubbish. However good it might have seemed before, it could not save him.
And so, he cast it aside. He forgot it.
Forgetting the bad
If you have read Trusting God with St. Therese, or my many posts on trust, you are familiar with my struggles. I am still tempted almost daily by despair. I fall so short! I sin so often! I do so little for God!
Then the Enemy’s voice whispers in my ear, taunting me.
What can a sinful person like me do? How can I make it to Heaven? How can I be at peace?
I can forget.
I can repent and move on, not agonizing over my mistakes, but entrusting them to God. I can cast them aside.
My salvation depends on God’s goodness, not my own. Yes, I must strive to follow Him, and I will continue to do so. But so much of my life is based on pride! I think that all is over each time I commit a fault! Can I not trust God to forgive my faults? Can I not trust Him to sanctify me in His own way and time?
Forgetting all things
I am trying to practice the active purification of the memory. I want to put aside all pondering, all reminiscing, all regret that is outside God’s will.
So when I remember an incident from my teenage years, I ask: Does the memory help me or those I am bound to serve? If not, I throw it away.
I picture myself on a hill in the wind, notebook in hand. Each page is a memory, cherished or repudiated. I tear out a leaf and let it go. It blows towards the horizon, gone forever.
“In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown, but You, my Beloved!” (St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul)
I am completely vulnerable. I have nothing but Christ to shield me. No place to hide. Nothing to win His favor. Yet, “I am confident and unafraid” (Is 12:2).
Confidence in the Cross
Jesus was naked on the Cross. But in the Garden of Eden, He clothed the repentant Adam and Eve with His own hand.
May we have no other covering but His on the Day of Judgment. No clinging to anything but Him. His sacrifice is everything. The beginning and the end. The Alpha and the Omega. Let us trust in it.
Blessed Holy Week!