Blazing Memories

Your recollections of the past might not be as unimportant as you have been lead to believe!
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source:

            As I age I find myself caught between the memories of the past and the worries of the future.  During the day I often spend time in “back there” and the joy or sorrow of things that happened long ago and some not so long ago.  Then I sometimes wonder and worry if I have made preparations for the future that are thorough enough.  I spend a lot of time in places that only exist in my head.  So is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Maybe it’s just the process of aging and what happens when you have been around long enough to have a large repertoire of things from the past to think about.  Often my memories go to loved ones who are dearly missed.  Just as often, though, I have the gift of recalling things that were just breath taking or thrilling, those things that give a smile that lasts for the day.  Maybe this rear-view thing isn’t so crazy and maybe it’s just a function of growing older and the way that our spirit perceives things now that we are no longer twenty?  One of the things that we must remember in the spiritual life is that the majority of our “work” and those things of most value are really things that we can’t actually see. “[A]lthough our outer self is wasting away our inner self is being renewed day by day.  [We need to] look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2Cor 4:16-17).


            With any luck our aging produces benefits that we never thought to consider when we were younger.  You’ve heard the old adage: “Youth is wasted on the young.”  I don’t know that I would consider youth as a waste but one’s thinking and perspectives certainly do change as you grow older.  There is a wonderful passage from Hebrews that instructs us about memory and the perspective on the non-visible things of the spirit. “Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for or prove the existence of realities that at present remain unseen.  It was for faith that our ancestors were commended. It is by faith that we understand that the world was created by one word from God, so that no apparent cause can account for the things we can see.” (Heb 11: 1-3 Jerusalem Bible)  The writer was addressing this passage to the Diaspora of the Jews (~ 67 C.E.) who acknowledged the divinity of Jesus and were really caught in the crunch of having no Temple and practicing this brand new religion.  Memory and history is what kept them going and gave their buffeted community courage for the future.  It was very important for them to value the gift of their history (memory) and not regard it as a waste in this difficult circumstance of upheaval.


            In that light we might consider some of Jesus practices that seem a little curious. Things like the Transfiguration for instance. Recall the scene, Jesus took only three of his men; Peter, James and John, and led them to a remote and hard to reach location on the top of Mt. Tabor.  As a note, you might recall that the brothers James and John were nick named the “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus himself. Peter also had a reputation for being a little raucous himself. These three were not the quieter members of his retinue. Why didn’t he take them all, or at best the guys who were more introspective and “tuned in”?


            Jesus was the master in more ways than one.  Not only did he consistently reflect and teach the Father’s love, but it is also obvious that he was preparing his followers for more work when he left.  He knew that this select group was made up of the ones who would establish the world wide church for the future and into eternity.  All the things he did were lessons for now and especially later.  This becomes clear as his time winds down and he yells at them for being so “faithless” (Mk 9:19).  He knew his time was running short and that they must be prepared.  His frustration was obvious.  Not only was he delivering the prophetic message from earlier times but he was prepping for a future when he knew it would all be in the hands of the disciples.  In light of this, things like the scene on Tabor take on a fuller meaning.

            When you examine the Transfiguration the thing that gets your attention is the “flash”; the light, the appearance of Elijah and Moses, the unearthly glowing figure of Jesus, the talking cloud.  These were “special effects” to the max and a trifecta of occurrences that were quite literally impossible.   The whole scene throws the three into such a tizzy that all they want to do is stay there and put up a tent rather than return to reality.  That’s all “the obvious” but what about the things at the Transfiguration that were not so plain? Clearly this “event of light” was a precursor to the resurrection that the disciples would connect after the most astounding happening of their ministry.  “The Transfiguration is the summer lightening of the coming Resurrection ….the flaming arc which broke through or the first time on Tabor to reveal itself victoriously [later].” (Monsignor Romano Guardini †1968 theologian and writer)


            In a real sense what we are talking about here are the two basic elements that underpin faith, the visible and the invisible.  We, being incarnate creatures and all, tend to give enormous importance to what we can see.  Jesus knew, however that what we take in with our senses generates what can’t be seen, the eternal (Op. Cit Corinthians 2, above).  Although he could have had Elijah and Moses appear anywhere at any time he chose rather to orchestra the scene, special trip, select group, isolated location, fireworks!  He also knew that his brashest, most incarnate, disciples would not only have an intense reaction to the scene but that their presence here would provide a hugh investment dividend for the future of the  “Discipline of the Secret” as Raniero Cantalamessa (O.P. and current preacher to the Pope) tells us the movement was called in the early days.  No doubt these brash Sons of Thunder told this story to their colleagues and recalled the experience over and over again after Jesus was gone.  The spectacular occurrences of that day provided the fuel of encouragement; it was burned in their minds as an unforgettable memory.  


            By the power of memories like this, of Jesus’ time on earth, the new faith was formed and spread throughout the entire world.  “[W]hat is visible came into being through the invisible…. (Heb 11:3)  There is power in memory.  Faith is the memory of the goodness of God and all of His love that has gone before us as well as unshakeable hope for the future.  When we recall the goodness of God, scripture, memories of church, community, family we are exercising faith.  More than just recall, though, we are actually giving the presence of God in the world life.  Faith can only exist in the human mind. We need to understand that recall of the good things and occurrences of life is an act of faith.  Without the blazing memory of the Transfiguration, the disciples might have not had the courage to go on.  As a believer, do not dismiss your memories as worthless trivia.  Recalling them is an act of faith that actually plants seeds for the future.  Share your memories of faith with others.  You never know how that might reveal the “invisible” to someone who needed to hear an encouraging word right at that moment.

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Copyright ©2011, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Right Reserved

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Published by: Very nice site! is it yours too
Date: 2011-12-04 17:03:56
Very nice site! is it yours too

Published by: Very nice site!
Date: 2011-12-04 17:03:57
Very nice site!

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