The punch-line in yesterday’s post was the toddler saying to his newly arrived baby brother “tell me what God is like, I think I’m beginning to forget”.
Today’s first reading is from the heart of the desert journey of the Old Testament people of God, their journey from captivity and slavery in Egypt to freedom in their own land of promise. The Exodus account is presented to us in these Lenten days as a microcosm of life’s ups and downs, a journey of hopes and despairs, a forty-year pilgrimage of remembering and forgetting and remembering again.
One FFF reader commented a couple of weeks ago suggesting that the difficulty with forgiving is not so much the forgiving as the forgetting. This reader’s struggle was based on the often quoted but very unhelpful cliche “forgive and forget.” Yes it is important to forgive, but very important too that we do not forget. We must remember – not a remembering the anger and pain, but a hope-filled calling to mind that once we held onto hurt desiring revenge, but now, by the grace of God, we are free.
When we nurture even a little desire to forgive knowing that we are co-operating with God’s desire for us when we do this, we have proof of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is why it is so important that we remember. We are not remembering our anger but recalling the way that God worked in us to bring healing and a growth of love and forgiveness in us.
Let’s remember the Exodus story for a moment. After ten plagues in which the Egyptians suffered, the Pharoah finally agreed to let Moses lead the people of Israel into the desert to begin their journey home. They come upon several major obstacles but every time God brings them through.
With the Egyptians chasing them they are confronted with a sea in front of them. God parts the waters to let them through and closes the waters behind them to wipe out their enemy.
At Marah when the people were dying of thirst but could not stomach the bitter water, God led Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water and it became potable.
When the people grumbled because of their hunger cursing Moses for leading them on this journey to freedom, God rained bread from heaven with quail to feed them.
Again lacking water God causes water to flow from the rock.
Then when they long for some order in their lives, some indication of what God is calling them to, God gives them Ten Commandments which they welcomed and enshrined in the gold Ark of the Covenant.
And then, after all these miracles, they forget the power of God and turn to worship a golden calf!
I was curious about how long it was from the miracles above to the worship of the golden calf. I was thinking it was probably years, and looked up an “Exodus chronology” to check. The evidence indicates the time-frame was less than one year! All those extraordinary miracles in recent months and still the people kept forgetting that God would provide and they turn to a lifeless imitation idol.
Remembering is the heart of our faith, remembering that some moments in our past life were pretty tough but now we can see that we were carried through by God, and recalling too the heart of the sacramental life of the Church: “Do this in memory of me.”
- I hesitated to use this Footprints reflection today because it is so well known and considered by some to be a bit twee, but it does convey the point well and leave a vivid image. As you read it ask Jesus to reveal to you the ways that he has carried you through past struggles to a brighter future.
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”