Past, present and future – in memoriam.
Reading today’s gospel brings starkly to mind the fact that someone has died. In this case a husband, but as we know death strikes randomly and without logic. In this month of November we remember the dead, those who have gone before us marked wit the sign of faith, be it father, mother, brother, sister, son and daughter. Although their passing may fade, they never really leave us, as each day a memory is recalled or a moment relived.
The experiences of our lives inform us that it is in the laying down of memories where love is forged and moulded. In the charting of our own pathway through life, there are so many people who have touched us, helped and influenced us. So many whom we have known for but a short time and who in that brief episode helped us to make that difficult choice or that awkward decision. They may now have long departed this world, but nevertheless the memory of them remains precious and appreciated for the care and generosity they offered, and its good to recall them and offer for them prayers of gratitude and thanks. To commend them to the Lord for their goodness towards us and for the faith which they professed.
But the memories which affect us most of all are the ones which are born in and through the experience of being in a family. Laughter and tears, hopes and disappointments, successes and failures. These are the staging posts which define our personalities. We can all point to moments and events which, had they turned out differently would have changed our world completely. You may indeed start out following a particular path, thinking that there’s a clear road ahead, but chances are the place where you’ll end up, will be one you’d never have considered or even thought possible.
Even more poignant in a way, is the thought that we are also a source of memory for others. Something said or done by you and me will have been helpful or influential in someone else’s life in ways that we may never know. I often wonder what memories Jesus held dearest to himself. Thoughts of his own childhood days of growing up in Nazareth? Reminisces of the people around him who nurtured him and encouraged him without ever realising just who he was? But one thing for sure is that in his earthly life, Jesus could never have had imagined me or ever had a picture of my face in his mind, and yet in common with so many millions of people I believe that in his dying, he died for me, how so?
Is there something in the notion of a “future memory”? One which instead of remaining fixed in the past actually somehow reaches forward to the present and beyond as something alive and active? A memory which as it moves forward, born through the recalling of generation after generation, has the power to effect us and change us? Surely the answer is yes, and surely this memory is what we call our Catholic tradition, our rites of passage? Are not the very sacraments we receive the epitome of these moments of memoriam which bind us together with a shared experience of encounter with him, who calls us by our name?
Paul of Tarsus never met Jesus, like me and you, he never knew him as an individual person. Yet his knowing of Jesus as Son of God was built out of the shared memories of others who did know him, and in that construct, he was able to tell the Galatians in his letter to them that his life, which he felt was mapped out for him and sorted, had been turned on its head through this memory and his faith in Jesus the Christ, the anointed one of God, who as he says loved me and who sacrificed himself for my sake. It is the same memory that similarly touches me and you so deeply. It is a memory which reaches back to the past, to thus reside and live in the present, so as to shape the future.
May the souls of the faithful departed, who by their faith in Jesus have passed on to us their memories, rest in peace and rise in glory Amen.