My bad memories don’t bother me much. They’re tucked away back there somewhere, but mostly out of mind. It’s my good memories I’ve spent half my lifetime trying to overcome.Oh so true. For me personally, there's a part of me that relishes the sins of youth. There's also part of me that wants to write it off as pagan.
Of the opposite tendency, to write off the past Fr. James Martin wrote in his book on Jesus:
Denigrating the “before” is common in the spiritual life. After a conversion experience, one is tempted to set aside, downplay, or reject one’s past. In Thomas Merton’s biography The Seven Storey Mountain, the former dissolute student turned Trappist monk largely characterizes his former life as bad, and his life in the monastery as good. Of the “old” Thomas Merton, he said ruefully, “I can’t get rid of him.” In time Merton would realize how misguided a quest that is: there is no post-conversion person and pre-conversion person. There is one person in a variety of times, the past informing and forming the present. God is at work at all times.
It took me years to realize how limiting this approach can be, because it closes us off from seeing grace in our past....After entering the Jesuit novitiate, I slowly began to believe that all that had gone before was not as valuable as what had come after. I had undergone, to use an overused word, a “conversion” and so had put on the “new man,” as St. Paul says. This was indeed true. But I felt no need for the past, and sought to find God only in the present and in the future. In doing so I was negating all the good that God had done for me in the past. Sometimes we close the door to our past, thinking that since we have “progressed,” the past has little to offer. But we need to keep the door to our past open.
Those smiles reminded me that God was with me all along, forming me. As God is doing in every moment of our lives.I've come to a similar understanding, that even in those periods of feeling bereft of God, He was there. I can't, therefore, devalue that time. And, in one of those Godincidences that make me smile, the opening hymn at Mass yesterday had something like, “you are my past, present and future”. One should be kind to one's younger self, after all, since today's current self is tomorrow's younger self.
Really loving The Sunday Word commentary book of the editor of The New Jerusalem Bible, Henry Wansborough. Of this Sunday's gospel he says:
That is the importance of the naming of a child at baptism: Jesus takes us to himself and we become his. The early Christians called themselves ‘Those over whom the name of Jesus has been called’. We may have been named Mary or John, but the name of Jesus has been called over us and we have become his.Another meditation seen elsewhere (Daughters of St. Paul):
God is an outlandish giver of gifts. The Master of the Universe entrusted himself, body and soul, into human hands at the annunciation. Mary alone, of us all, honored the gift of incarnation with an unsullied fiat throughout her life. God gives himself, body and soul, into our hands in the Eucharist, and the response has been mixed. Sacrilege upon sacrilege have been committed, and saints have been forged and fortified beyond all expectation. Jesus entrusts his authority to bind and loosen into the hands of Peter and by extension, to the other apostles and their successors. In human terms, Jesus is simply too trusting for his own good. During Lent 2000, Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan gave the spiritual exercises to the papal household. In one of his sermons, he preached on the defects of Jesus: Jesus has a horrible memory (of our sins); his math is not accurate and his logic off-balance (the one lost sheep is as valuable as the ninety-nine!); he takes far too many risks; and he clearly doesn’t make wise financial calculations. These “defects” come from his great love—that gives all, trusts all, and empowers all.It feels very wrong, but often enough I like the commentary on the gospel better than the gospel reading itself! This is true for me recently with the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where the latecomers ended up with the same as the early toilers.
It's not that I think it's unfair for God to give the latecomers the same pay, but because it makes the Kingdom sound like very contractual, a wage-earning type deal. The question of course becomes “how much work is enough? Have I done enough?”
The Daughters of St. Paul commentary pretty much turns it all on its head, saying flat out that God doesn't have or need money and that thus "the parable must be about something else":
Regardless of how good or bad we feel ourselves or others to be, we are all laborers, “useless servants.” If we were wise, we would take on the attitude of the truly evangelical image of the tax collector in the temple: “Forgive me, Lord, I am a sinner.” At some moment in our lives God will convict us of our sin, and in the same moment, he will wrap us in an unexpected, incredibly powerful embrace of love. At that moment we will realize that grace is “his own money.” He gives it as a gift to everyone, even to me. I will discover then that I am the last laborer hired, and I am still paid for a full day, because there are no wages. There is only the gift of God’s love and the merits of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, which belong to all the sinners he came to save.*
Another tidbit found on the web today comes from Therese Brochard,who daily struggles with untreatable depression:
In 1959, when Victor Frankl published his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he discussed the research of his one his colleagues, Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, professor of psychology at the University of Georgia. She wrote:
Our current mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy.She believed that Victor Frankl’s logotherapy—a mental health strategy based on finding one’s life meaning—“may help counteract certain unhealthy trends in the present-day culture of the United States, where the incurable sufferer is given very little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and to consider it ennobling rather than degrading.”
Now mind you, that was BEFORE the positive psychology movement. BEFORE the happiness craze—the media’s obsession with smiley faces and thousands of publications promising the way to joy. BEFORE mindfulness efforts and Buddhist monks showing us we can meditate our way to bliss. BEFORE all the tomes on the neuroplasticity of the brain and how we can think our way to contentment, one happy thought at a time. BEFORE Facebook and the documentation of happy lives!That's pretty interesting commentary because it reminds me how we think there's something intrinsically wrong about having a cross. The gay person thinks it's a queer thing, no pun intended, to have to deal with unhappiness in the form of not being morally allowed to act out on it. The person in an unhappy marriage thinks it odd not to get a divorce in order to secure happiness. There's a whole lot of that going around. It's a short step from the Declaration's “pursuit of happiness” to “the right not to have a cross”.