Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, May 26, 2013, Trinity Sunday, Fr. Frank Hermann, SJ

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Notes on a Homily forTrinity Sunday-Memorial Day

                                                                                                                                               

                       St. Mary of the Angels

                      Roxbury

                      May 2013

Intro: Memorial Day:

This weekend, we are remembering those who laid down their lives for our freedom. Countless men and women through many generations have sacrificed for us. Thousands have given up their lives for our sakes. From their courage and self-sacrifice, we draw inspiration and hope; "to remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift."

 

Yet, remembering can be hard for us. Our more natural state, or at least mine, is to be forgetful. As individuals, our memories are weak. And as a society, too, we forget. We are not mindful enough of all the reasons we have for gratitude. We make ways of reminding ourselves as best we can (special days of remembrance, statues, parades, etc.), because we know we are prone to forget.

 

I. Remembering is one of the great themes we encounter in the psalms and in the Bible as a whole, both in the Old Testament and the New. People are always forgetting and remembering and forgetting again.

 

            (a) God is the Great Rememberer: "the One who remembered us in our low estate". (Ps. 136:23)

            Even when God's people forget God and forget the good deeds God has done, God never fails to remember them:

            There are two beautiful images God uses to tell us God remembers us:

            1. to Noah, God says: "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the bond between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my bond between me and you and all living creatures of every kind...Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures."

            2. Is. 49: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. God, the Creator of the vast universe, has written each of our names on the palm of his hand.

           

            (b) The sin of Israel is that it forgets God: It forgets the covenant, the bond, the rainbow; it forgets the saving works of the Lord. "Remember the wonderful works that he has done," David entreats his people. God led us out of slavery in Egypt to freedom; he brought us safe through the Red Sea; he fed us in the desert and led us with smoke by day and fire by night to the Promised Land.  Yet, the people are quick to forget.

            We are like that, too. How many of us live lives of constant gratitude?  Yet, that is what we should be doing, remembering that everything that is good, or beautiful, or true, is a sign of God's love and presence. But we allow ouselves to forget. That is our sin as much as Israel's.

 

III. But, God, the Great Rememberer, has one weakness. In one respect, God is the Great Forgetter. We are better than God, so to speak, in this one respect. We remember insults, grudges, slights, all kinds of offenses (real or perceived), transgressions, and "trespasses" of others against us. But God, who remembers everything else, constantly forgets our sins, as soon as we ask forgiveness.

            Jer 31: "I will remember their sins no more"; "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." God just has no talent for remembering sins.

            It is true of Jesus, too:

            He is always forgiving and forgetting sins. It annoys people that he acts that way. People remember sins. They know the sin of the woman caught in adultery; they remember the sins of people's fathers. They have a sharp eye out for the sins of others. They criticize Jesus because he eats with sinners. But this does not stop the Lord. He remembers not, He says, "the things of the past" (i.e., our sins). Anyone who approaches him, he forgives, because he is interested in making us new. Though he forgets our sins, he remembers us in his love. The thief on the cross is a perfect example. He says: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." And Jesus immediately promises, he will do so. He does not talk about the man having been a thief. He simply says: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

            Jesus asks us to forgive one another, just as he and his heavenly Father forgive us our trespasses.

 

III. Jesus calls upon us to remember

            "Do this in remembrance of me", he says to his disciples at the Last Supper, and to us, his followers. Remember me. Remember that I have laid down my body and poured out my blood for you. Remember it in the sharing of the bread and wine with each other. So, at each Mass we say, "Therefore we celebrate the memorial of his death and resurrection...[offering] the bread of life and the chalice of salvation"

            Remember me, he asks, who remembers you, just as I promised to remember the thief who died beside me.

            Remember always what God has done in Christ.

 

IV. Such remembering gives birth to hope. For when we remember, we realize "there has never been a time past when God wasn't with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom".

            And because that is the past, because we remember God's gracious deeds toward us, "we have this high and holy hope: that what he has done, he will continue to do, that what he has begun in us and our world through Christ, he will in unimaginable ways bring to fullness and fruition." (Frederick Buechner).

 

V.  God knows well how forgetful we can be. Therefore, Jesus promised to help us with our forgetfulness: he sends forth the Spirit: "the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you."

           

"To have faith is to remember and wait, and to wait in hope is to have what we hope for already begin to come true in us through our hoping."

(Frederick Buechner)

                                                                                                                        FRH, S.J.

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