A friend of mine expressed to me his angst about not being able to remember people’s names as well as when he was younger. In fact, he presently feels a pronounced lag in recalling names. The loss or diminishment of one’s memory is a great fear for many people who are aging. One hears, “take anything, but not my memory.” There is almost an instinctual sense that in losing one’s memory a person ceases to exist and this triggers great fear. Memory is essential to the human psyche as we draw from it in everything that we do. Those of us who have had family members with dementia know this fact only all too clear.
My grandfather Jim passed away in 2007. Grandpa was a very good athlete in his day—I got my wheels from him. I recall reminiscing with grandpa about football. He, too, had played football as a youth. I laughed when he told me that after practice he would fold up his helmet and put it in his pocket. About five years before his death Grandpa began to suffer from Alzheimer’s. During this time he struggled greatly. He fell into fits of anger at time, which was not normal for him; was often disoriented and many times fearful. All the result of losing his memory.
As bad as it is to lose one’s memory, it is much worse to lose one’s spiritual memory. Psalm 103 from this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm speaks of the need to actively engage our memory in recalling God many works lest we forget. King David exhorts himself, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” This Psalm teaches us that we have to stir ourselves to remember what God has done lest we fall into a sort of spiritual dementia. The result of spiritual dementia, like its neurological counterpart, includes disorientation about finding happiness, great fear and, interestingly, bursts of anger. Hmm, this seems to capture the spirit of many hearts in our day and age. People have short fuses, fear is prevalent and there is a hopeless groping for meaning. Maybe the Psalmist is offering the remedy, right here, right now: Remember, “forget not” all his kindnesses!
The hopeful thing about spiritual dementia is that it can absolutely be avoided. We merely need to recall often the many benefits that we have received and to “praise the Lord, O my soul.” Frequently, this will mean giving thanks to God when we don’t feel grateful. In other words, don’t wait for the spontaneous feeling to give praise to God. We will have to exhort ourselves and stir our souls like King David in Psalm 103.
St. Robert Bellarmine comments that David recognizes that because of weakness, he must command himself to give thanks:, “due to our human frailty, a consciousness of human infirmity, that is very apt to cool in matters that do not come under cognizance of the senses, especially such as God, “who dwelleth in light inaccessible” he (King David), therefore, adds, “and never forget all he hath done for thee.”
“Bless the Lord, O my soul. And forget not all his benefits.”
Ad majorem Dei gloriam,
Fr. John F. Jirak, Pastorblog comments powered by Disqus