Wednesday, March 12, 2014

You are you, past, present, future

This morning in my daily on-line engagement, which I am trying to keep to a minimum these days, I encountered this: "In order to fully embrace your future, you have to completely release your past." Like a lot of self-help pabulum this sounds good, but only if you don't think about it too much, or really think about it at all.

My question, especially for Christians who are so enamored of the advice of secular self-help gurus, or the self-help gospel of false "Christian" teachers (see Shai Linne's "False Teachers") is, If you "completely release" your past, then how do you remain yourself? If you "completely release" your past, then how do you remember, like Israel of old, how God delivered you?

My point? Memories matter, even painful and embarrassing ones. A life without pain (both received and inflicted) and regret is not a human, let alone a redeemed, life. To "completely release" your past amounts to turning your back on yourself and your God. After all, who are you in Christ? You are a new creation, but not a new creation without a past. As Oscar Wilde famously observed, "The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future" (A Woman of No Importance, Act 3).

In Christian terms, you cannot become who God created, redeemed, and is sanctifying you to be without your past. Faith that merits the name is not about denying reality. Rather, as Msgr Giussani taught, faith is about engaging reality according to all the factors that go into making it up. Reality is made up of nothing except the past, present, and future. While it is true that we should not drag our past hurts around like Jacob Marley's chains, we can never lose sight of, that is, cease being grateful for, being delivered from those things that otherwise would hold us back. But you can't forgive, or be forgiven, if you forget.

Reading through the Hebrew Scriptures, how many times does God remind Israel that He delivered them from Egypt? In the New Testament, St. Paul frequently reminds Christians of the liberation they have received from Christ. For example, in his Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul wrote:
And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him, provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard (1:21-23)

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