I like to think that I have a good memory. I can still remember childhood friends’ phone numbers (from ages past when people actually had to dial numbers on phones), and my mind is an endless storehouse of useless trivia information. But when it comes to the big stuff, like recalling God’s faithfulness or the shopping list that my wife asked me to pick up at the grocery store, my memory’s not as impressive.
One of the daily readings for Mass this Lent was the story of the Israelites complaining that they were thirsty after leaving Egypt. The story gets exciting when God gives them water from a rock, but it seems ridiculous that the same people who had miraculously walked through the Red Sea weren’t sure if God could handle their water problems.
Throughout Scripture, we find the recurring theme of humanity’s consistent failure to remember God’s consistent faithfulness. Time and time again, the Father provides for His children. By the next chapter or two, they’ve forgotten who He is.
Though it’s now 10 years old, I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie 50 First Dates recently. It’s definitely not a movie I’d recommend showing to teens, but the basic premise offers a beautiful truth. The story is that Adam Sandler falls in love with Drew Barrymore, only to find that she has an amnesia that makes her forget who he is every morning when she wakes up. Despite how impractical and seemingly futile his pursuit is, he is determined to start all over and win her heart again each day.
That’s the story of my life. God proves His love for me, and by the next scene, I’m wondering who He is. Yet somehow my forgetfulness doesn’t deter Him, and He sets out again each day to win my heart.
Often in youth ministry, it feels like we’re trying to come up with catchy semester themes and culturally relevant tie-ins to repackage the same simple message. Our retreats and events keep revolving around the counter-cultural reality that God is a loving Father who wants to provide for us, His children.
Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have reiterated the fact that the New Evangelization aims at presenting the timeless truth of the Gospel with “new ardor, methods, and expressions.” It’s a comforting thought to realize that I don’t need to propose some new idea to teens; I am simply called to remind them day in and day out of the Father’s unchanging love.
The liturgy, which is the center of our lives as Catholics, recalls God’s faithful provision for our every need. The prayers, the readings, the homily, the Creed, and the Eucharist draw us into the reality of the love that we too easily forget. The Catechism even refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Church’s living memory” (CCC 1099).
Before I can hope to tell others about who God is, I first need His grace to remind me of all that He has done in my life.
Pope Benedict XVI said, “The world is redeemed by the patience of God.” If God the Father can patiently pursue me with all of my forgetfulness, I can confidently present the same Gospel message to the teens in my ministry. I don’t want to be known as a youth minister with new ideas; I’d rather be a living witness to the hope that Jesus brought us 2,000 years ago.