God has given each one of us a gift greater than a thousand I.B.M. machines. It is called a Memory and everything that passes through our five senses is stored in this faculty.
We can recall the odor of a fried steak smothered with onions and our mouths water.
Everything we read is stored in our memory even though our recall may not bring to mind the information we desire.
Many Christians are tortured by this faculty—tortured because of the guilt of past sins, resentments over old injuries or regrets over past omissions.
The memory of past failures can be of great benefit in the present moment if used properly. St. Paul never forgot how he persecuted the First Christians and that memory made him humble under trials and understanding during persecutions. (Acts 22:4-5)
Paul had many painful memories for he never forgot the numerous perils he endured for the sake of the Good News. (2 Cor. 11:20-29)
Neither did he forget that when he was in prison no one visited him for fear of the Jews. (2 Tim. 4:16)
The problems that arise from our past are not the remembrance of that past but a need for healing—a change—a transformation by which we can put on the "mind of Christ". (1 Cor. 2:16)
We are not asked by Jesus to develop a kind of spiritual amnesia—a blocking—out of everything painful. We are asked however to trust Him so our sins can be swallowed up in the ocean of His mercy. We are asked to develop a spirit of compassion so we can look at any person or incident in our past through His merciful Eyes.
We are asked to transform our memory through the power of His grace, to sweep it clean of all cobwebs, dirt and superfluities that keep that faculty so cluttered up there is no room for God.
There are three rooms in the Temple of our souls—Memory, Intellect and Will—all three are to be returned to God adorned with the jewels of Faith, Hope and Love.
The wooden structures given us at Baptism must be rebuilt into those solid materials fit for a King to dwell in. If we permit the original structure to deteriorate and fall into ruin by laziness and lack of zeal, we shall live in those ruins for all Eternity.
Our memories are our own and we cannot blame anything or anyone in the past for any pain dwelling there. If we open the door to them or keep hashing over past incidents in our minds, we have only ourselves to blame.
Our lack of forgiveness makes us hate and our lack of compassion makes us hard-hearted. Pride in our hearts makes us resentful and keeps our memory in a constant whirlwind of passion and self-pity.
From the Agony in the Garden to His death, it is consoling to see Jesus emptying His human faculties of Himself. He gave His Will to the Father completely when He said "Thy Will be done." (Luke 22:43) He emptied His memory when He said "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34) Like the Father, He was full of compassion and mercy and He would not permit the least resentment to enter His memory.
Like Jesus, every human being has enough memories in his past to occupy his time and thoughts continually. It is not the remembrance of these incidents but the reliving of them that creates havoc in our souls. The frequent and sometimes constant rehearsing of past events can spark these evils mentioned by Jesus and move the Will to accomplish such acts.
We are often the cause of our own misery and unhappiness and we run from place to place looking for relief and find none. In our effort to acquire peace of mind we do not see the real cause of our uneasiness—a lack of compassion and humility.
We know that certain sins of the past create guilt complexes. Remembrances of past offenses create anger which we cling to in spite of ourselves. We are unwilling to let go and we do this in the name of truth.
We justify our anger or even hatred by saying the incident was literally unjust and uncalled for. We permit the truth of the matter to be used as a means of justifying our reactions and exercising our sinful attitudes. We very neatly create burdens and impose them upon our own shoulders.
Self-imposed burdens are the most difficult to release. Perhaps there is some satisfaction in reliving past situations, be they ever so painful. It makes our unkindness or hatred so justified we feel justice is being served by the uncontrolled passions ever welling up in our hearts.
We can become so blind that we plead with God to lift this cross from our shoulders, while we unhesitatingly press it ever nearer.
Only through the compassion and mercy of our Father can our Memory be healed of all the bitterness stored within it.
Prayer Of The Mind
The first Christians soon learned that there were many ways of expressing themselves to God. There were times they spoke to God about His Beauty—or their needs—and that was conversational Prayer.
They spoke to Him silently in their thoughts and as they did they realized He answered them—by thought.
Many times they were afraid as they were hunted like animals—and that very fear reached up to God for help. It was at times like these they felt a surge of courage revive their spirits, and the words of Jesus would run through their minds. They wondered why they had been so afraid and realized God had spoken to them and His Word was proven by power.
There were other times they had to fight the enemy within and they realized they needed mental discipline to control the spiritual faculties that caused such havoc in their souls.
They would quiet their minds by using their memories to recall some incident in the life of Jesus. This effort calmed that faculty of any resentment that might be deposited there. To insure their thought of Jesus taking hold, they would use their imagination to picture the scene and suddenly it was as if they were really there. They would feel the sentiments of His Heart in that situation and begin to apply them to themselves.
The first Christians' Prayer of Imitation gave them the necessary drive to bring about in their mind and will the desire to be like Jesus in everything. In order to prepare their hearts for this transformation, they read and reread everything that related to Jesus and His Personality.
In order to perfect their own personalities and bring out those qualities that were buried by sin, weakness and imperfections, the Christians had to keep their eyes, mind and heart on the Divine Model. They had seen other imperfect men like Peter, Paul, James and John develop within themselves qualities of soul that astounded the world. They seemed to be born again, full of joy, in control of themselves and unhampered by the cares of the world. They realized the foundation of their actions was their thoughts and so they began to fill their minds with a mental concept of Jesus that wove itself into every situation and brought to their minds a pattern and parallel between themselves and Him.
Because they loved Him, this effort was never forced or strained. It was the natural consequence of a deep love—a love that made the parties involved—one.
When they heard or read of Jesus "feeling sorry" for a crowd of people, they were not satisfied with thinking about the scene to contemplate His compassion, they entered into His Spirit and began to "feel as He felt.
Had He not put His Spirit into them when they were baptized? Were they not called upon to follow Him as faithful disciples? Well then, they would cooperate with that Spirit and act accordingly. His compassion for sinners would be theirs and they would develop the Gifts given to them by using every situation to grow into His image.
Their minds had to "think like Jesus." Their hearts had to "feel" like Jesus. Their voices had to spread the Good News about Jesus.
When they were tempted to anger or to cursing, they would immediately think of Jesus as He stood before His enemies in calm serenity. Their contemplation looked beyond the "thinking" stage. Their imagination pictured Jesus in perfect self-control, and their hearts responded by doing the same as He did.
Prayer Of The Heart
The first Christians had to keep themselves above every situation that tended to drag their souls down and make them want to retaliate at anger and hatred.
They had to nourish and maintain within themselves a never-ending source of love. They had to feed their souls with life-giving water.
Jesus had sent the Advocate to dwell in their souls and they were determined that nothing would interfere with that union. Every moment of their lives had to be used to grow in the Image of Jesus.
Faith gave them a belief, and Hope a goal, but to keep both alive and active they needed to Love. Faith settled the doubts in their intellects and Hope calmed their emotions, but they needed Love to give them the endurance to persevere. Faith told them what they believed and Hope told them why, but it was Love that told them Who they believed in. Faith gave them something and Hope gave them some place, but Love gave them Someone. In the journey of life, Faith was the boat, Hope the anchor and Love the rudder.
They had to maintain an ever growing love for God and neighbor and they looked to Jesus to tell them how. One day Jesus told His Apostles, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We shall come and make Our home with him." (Jn. 14;23)
The secret then was to keep His word and the Trinity would live in them. The Spirit made them sons of God at Baptism and an indelible seal was placed upon them—a seal never to be erased in time or eternity. Like the sons of men, they had to grow and mature in their new life and that life was fed by God Himself.
Was the "Word" something they heard or was it Someone they loved? Somehow they knew that the words that passed through their minds and the emotions of their hearts were inseparable. They noticed when they read Scripture that the sacred writers often used the word "mind" and "heart" as if they were the same.
Jesus Himself told them "it is from men's hearts that evil intentions emerge . . .Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. All evil things come from within and make a man unclean." (Mark 7:21,15, 23)
When we speak of the heart, we think of love and wherever there is love there is the possibility of hatred. It is what we love or hate that determines our course in life and the degree in which we love or hate will determine our success or failure.
The heart, the symbol of love and seat of the emotions, reaches out as a light shining in the world indicating the power of our will and the direction we have chosen to take.
No matter how often we remember His Words or how deeply we believe in them, if those Words do not affect our heart and move it to love and give all to Jesus, it is nothing. St. Paul realized this when he said to the Corinthians that if he had all knowledge, gave everything he possessed to the poor, gave his body to be burned and had the faith that moved mountains, without love, it was nothing. (Cor 13:1-3)
Paul was not speaking of an emotional love, love fanned into a raging blaze and quickly turned into ashes. No, he was speaking of a deep love of the heart, an inner conviction, a total consecration, a drive that preferred death to denial.
The heart of the Christian was a heart of flesh, penetrated by the Spirit of the Lord. It was a heart ever aware of being a "home" in which the Spirit of the Lord reigned and loved.
Prayer Of Anguish
The first Christians experienced moments of ecstasy, hours of happiness, a perpetual joy and deep anguish of heart. Life for them changed but the change for the better was within. Although their inner self was more important, their life in the world clamored for attention and often caused them their greatest pain.
It is always painful to change anything and perhaps the greatest pain of all is the loneliness of change. This was the first deep pain the Christians experienced. They suddenly stood alone in the world as strangers. Everything and everyone was different and many times opposed to their way of thinking and living.
Only a short time ago they were comfortable in the world but when Jesus entered their hearts they were cut off from the world and became as foreigners in a land of exile.
The Christians had something glorious within them, something they talked about, shared and struggled for, but they could not give it to anyone. It was a gift and that gift of Faith spread by its manifestation in their lives.
The peace of the first Christian was a deep union with God as Father, Jesus as Lord and the Spirit as Sanctifier. He raised his mind to the Father and drank in the realization that this great God was truly his Father.
He let the thought of the Fatherhood of God penetrate his soul until it rested in it like a child in its mother's arms—secure and unafraid. Power to withstand the trials of life accompanied this realization, for if "God was with them who could be against them?" (Rom. 8:31)
The Christian entered into the Spirit of Jesus and let his gentleness penetrate his soul. He not only thought of Jesus, he "put on His Mind." He let the gentle, merciful Jesus take over his life to the point where he thought like Him and loved like Him. He was not satisfied just to pray to Jesus, he let Jesus bear fruit in him by giving his entire life to Him. The peaceful Jesus lived in him and he eradicated everything in his life that prevented that peaceful, gentle Christ from radiating.
Peace is a gift we must ever pursue and once we have found it, hold it fast for it is part of Him. With Him in us nothing is big enough, great enough or important enough for us to lose His Presence.
Electronic Copyright © 1999 EWTN
All Rights Reserved