April 1, 2007
WHO REMEMBERS ME DOT COM:
REMEMBERING AND CELEBRATING IN HOLY WEEK
REMEMBERING AND CELEBRATING IN HOLY WEEK
As I write these reflections, the thought of that “persistent” web site that forms part of the whole “social engineering” scheme in cyberspace, keeps on surfacing in my mind. Known simply as WRM that stands for “Who Remembers Me,” it captures email addresses from all over the world, generates a “personalized” invitation for every one to join, and links them up with one another in some way, by playing on that natural and innate human need for connectivity, for bonding, and some form of emotional attachment to each other, albeit on shallow and tenuous – if, a bit suspicious - grounds.
Who remembers me dot com … What a cute way of supplying a “fast food” style of affirmation, remembrance, and affiliation to a group, no matter the fact that it is really only virtual, and possibly unreal.
Today, Passion Sunday, the liturgy of the Church, among other things, reminds us of him who really remembers us in an eminently real and deep way. Last week, I made mention of the fact that we, like the Jews of old, are a people of memory. We thrive and live on memory. As a people of the memorial, events that happen are meaningful to us, not on account of the fact that they happened per se, but that they happened for a reason – owing to God’s loving and saving design. For a people like us of the memorial, we remember not just what happened. We remember the meaning of what happened in the light of the singular event of God’s entering into our human history. The meaning of the historical events take on a much richer hue and color on account of the saving event wrought out by God in Jesus Christ His Son, in union with the Holy Spirit. Thus, we Christians do not just simply recall things past. No … We look back, but with our sights trained really on the future. We make a return journey to the “already” of Christ’s saving event, but we really focus a whole lot more on the “not yet” – the fullness and fulfillment of what is yet to come.
I take my cue this Sunday from a seemingly insignificant bit player in the unfolding drama of today’s account of the Passion (Lk 22:14 – 23:56) – the so-called good thief, Dismas by name accorded by tradition. He made a passionate plea to the crucified Lord: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
When you come into your kingdom … This is the object of the supreme act of memorializing that is the hallmark of today’s liturgy. We remember: his triumphant entry to Jerusalem; the sudden shift in attitudes of the people who, one day were crying “hosanna,” and another day were shouting “crucify him.” But we look forward to more of what we recall. We call him “Son of David.” We declare him “blessed” as the “king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Lk 19:28-40).
But Dismas goes beyond mere material remembering. His being steeped in Jewish memory leads him to transform memorial to active faith and hope. He prays and pleads earnestly to him who has “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-11). He did not get lost in the utter “human tragedy” of the moment. He did not allow ephemeral “history” to cloud his “memory.” Suffering as he certainly was, along and with Christ, who, himself was deeply steeped in the mire of suffering and death on the cross, the good thief knew enough to look forward and stake out his “future” with God’s future: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Yes … I propose that we do have an answer to “who remembers me dot com.” I propose, too, that we can help one another this holiest of weeks and all the weeks of the year to come to a saving memorial of our past, present, and future.
Palm Sunday is best at this. It telescopes for us all three aspects of our history. This history, the liturgy today tells us, is really His Story – God’s story and ours – and our past, present, and future have been more than sufficiently covered by the story of Jesus, God and Man.
This Jesus whom we crucified is God. “Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.” This Jesus whom we put to death is fully man: “coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance.” This Jesus, who suffered and died on the cross is King and Lord. We entered with him in triumph to Jerusalem singing: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” This same Jesus now leads us marching triumphantly towards the heavenly Jerusalem. Palm Sunday makes sure we get it right. We recall the past. That is true. But don’t just recall things past. We call to mind things future – the “not yet” of our Christian faith. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!
Dismas did not just have a good hindsight. He probably rehashed the little of Hebrew Scripture and tradition that he knew or heard of as he swung in pain and humiliation up on the tree together with Jesus. But he was graced with the gift of insight. He saw somewhat prophetically the unfolding story of God at work in Jesus Christ. His insight led him to a prudential judgment of heavenly foresight. This foresight of faith, hope, and love is what we all have as Christians. When we were baptized we all were graced, gifted with, and given by God those three so-called “theological virtues.” We were primed for greatness and holiness. Somewhere in the trajectory of our earthly and material history, as human beings, there was Someone up there who remembered us dearly. Someone up there had us in mind from the very beginning. Someone up there had our best interests in mind.
This holiest of weeks can leave us mindless and distracted in so many ways. The culture of the “media moment” would probably take our thoughts away from all this holy remembering. In this world of media-mediated values, our best definition of a holy week retreat is to go along with the noisy and madding crowds to our favorite vacation spots (including – you guessed it right – the malls as the new cathedrals of commerce!). We would most likely remember with some regret, the pageantry of holy weeks gone by, distant now in time and practice from this show-biz inspired world of ours.
But time and again, the very same media culture catches our flagging attention. “Who Remembers Me.com” is one such reminder. Yes … we know that important truth that is well worth celebrating in liturgical memorial par excellence. God remembers me in Christ. God saves me in Christ. And His memory is one that we now ought to sing and acclaim for ever and ever. For His Kingdom will have no end. Hosanna to the Son of David!
Fr. Vitaliano Chito Dimaranan, SDB
Paranaque City, March 28, 2007