After fifteen years of listening to confessions as a priest you begin to learn a few things about sin, grace and their effects in life. Sin wounds us on a variety of levels but I believe that one of the most corrosive effects of sin is how it wounds our memory – individually and as community. In sin we forget – we forget who God is and who we are.
In sin we begin to forget who God is… Throughout the gospels we see that Jesus continually puts before us a specific understanding of God the Father. God is Abba, “daddy” – the one who loves unconditionally and who gives life abundantly. In the gospel for today (Mt. 6:24-34) Jesus reminds us that God watches over the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. God is the father who yearns for the return of the prodigal son and who loves his son just as much when he is lost as when he is found again. God’s love remains constant. But we forget. In sin we quickly begin to think of God as distant, aloof – either a harshly judging and condemning God or so aloof as to be of no real consequence. We easily replace “God is love” with “God helps those who help themselves” (a saying found nowhere in all of Scripture).
In sin we begin to forget ourselves… I have seen this dynamic again and again – the fruit of sin is that little voice in the back of our thoughts constantly murmuring: “Who do you really think you are?” “You are not worthy of love.” “If people only knew the real you…” “You have no worth, no real value.” Sin leads one down a very dark alley of self doubt and ultimately self hatred.
In sin there is this double memory loss: the forgetting of God and the forgetting of self and I believe that this double memory loss is what is at the foundation of the worry that Jesus addresses in today’s gospel. Throughout this passage our Lord makes clear statements both about our value and worth the very character of God in order to remind us of the truth. “Look at the birds of the sky; they do now sow or reap … yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Then he asks, “Are you not more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span?”
To address this worrying – rooted in the forgetfulness caused by sin – our Lord brings healing by calling us to memory; instructing us to remember both who God is (God is love. God watches over all creation. God seeks out and saves. God is near.) and who we are (We are beloved of God. “Look at the birds … are you not more important than they?”)
In today’s first reading we read from the forty-ninth chapter of the Book of the prophet Isaiah. A few verses before this reading we find this, “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.” God knows each one of us even more than we know ourselves. I believe that one of the graces of the sacrament of reconciliation is that when we have forgotten who we are through sin and are lost God remembers for us and by so doing summons us to truth.
“Do not worry about tomorrow,” says our Lord. Be rooted in the sure knowledge and memory of love.