Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I Will Never Forget You

By Colleen O’Sullivan
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”  Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even should she forget, I will never forget you.    (Isaiah 49:14-15)

Jesus answered the Jews:  “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”  For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.  (John 5:17-18)

The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.
The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. (Psalm 145:13cd-14)

All of us experience times in our lives when we feel bowed down.  Maybe we’re dealing with difficult family issues or problems at work.  Perhaps it’s our own health that is failing or that of a loved one.  It could be that we are overwhelmed with grief at the loss of a beloved friend or family member.  Or maybe we relate to the exiled people of God in today’s first Scripture reading, so far from home and so lonely they thought even God had forgotten them.  Certainly, on our Lenten journey with Jesus, we see that even our Lord is weighed down by interior struggle and suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and experiences feeling forsaken on the Cross.  No one is exempt from experiences of desolation in this life.

Both of our Scripture readings for today, however, provide words of comfort.   In the beginning of the passage from Isaiah, the prophet speaks of seeing light at the end of the tunnel for the exiles.  He talks of the day when God will bring them home.  In the face of the exiles’ skepticism, using beautiful, maternal imagery, God says, “I will never forget you.”  In the verse immediately following today’s reading, God says he has each of us carved on the palm of his hand.  We are loved and are always held fast in God’s hands.

Prior to today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has healed a man paralyzed and unable to walk for 38 years.  This took place on the Sabbath, which set up further conflict with the Pharisees.  Jesus’ words are interesting – “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”  There was a group of Jews who thought God did nothing on the Sabbath and, therefore, observant Jews shouldn’t, either. Not all the rabbis agreed with this, pointing out that people were still being born on the Sabbath, so God must still be at work creating life. Jesus was making the point that God is always merciful and loving, seeking our healing and wholeness.  Every day, not just 6 days a week.  Jesus’ words probably had a much bigger impact in his time, when there were so many detailed laws about what a person could and could not do on the Sabbath.  In our day, we scarcely differentiate the Sabbath from any other day.  But knowing that God never stops watching over us and caring for us is comforting.

So, what can we do when we are the ones feeling bowed down?  It’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that things will never be any different and we are always going to be stuck in our despair or desolation.   Or, like the exiles in Babylon, to wonder if God has forgotten us.  But the truth is that God’s love for us never changes.  It’s life itself that never stays the same; it is always a series of hills and valleys, with an occasional high peak or deep crevasse thrown in. When we’re in a valley and can’t hear God’s voice or feel God’s presence, there’s always another hill, another vibrant experience of God ahead.  It’s important to remind ourselves of that.  It also helps to call to mind the moments when we have felt God’s presence and love and have been filled with love for God in return.  Those memories can sustain us in the inevitable valleys.

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