Sometimes we are called to do two things that seem in opposition to one another, yet both are important. As Catholics, we are called upon to care for the world around us since it is a gift from God, yet at the same time we are asked to transcend this world and put our hopes and desires in the world to come. When taken to extremes, both tendencies lead to manifestly wrong conclusions.
An emphasis on this world makes us forget the final destination of our journey. Everything in this life depends on the life to come. Where are we headed? The answer to this can determine the meaning of our lives. If I do not practically believe in an afterlife, then all my striving here is only for momentary meaning; but, if the future after death is seen as a reality, then I may choose other things to do with my life that aim me more in the direction I want to go.
If we look down on this life, however, and only pine for the future life, we commit great errors of judgment as well. So much of my future is determined by the good decisions I make in this life; this life is a testing ground. God is hidden here so we must act in faith, not having sight. The saints say that if we were able to see God, then we could never refuse to be with Him. In effect, our freedom would be nullified.
So in walking by faith and not by sight, we grow into the person that God wants us to be. It is a great risk but one worth taking. The philosopher Blaise Pascal, who was also a mathematician and religious writer, spoke about the wager we make, the bet. He warned atheists that if they live as though there is no God and he, Pascal, as though there is a God, when everyone dies, the results will be shown: if there is no God than there is nothing but eternal oblivion for both believer and unbeliever; but if there is a God, then the atheist becomes the biggest loser since he bet that there was no God! So surprise! This is termed “Pascal’s Wager”.
One of the biggest sins that the desert fathers and mothers identified is called ‘forgetfulness’. It is knowing what we believe as Christians, but living as though all that religious stuff is not important. We simply choose to forget, sometimes conveniently, what it is that God calls us to. In this way of seeing reality, it does not matter what a person says that they believe in, it is how they live their lives. They could live as though their beliefs do not matter when dealing with daily reality. The spiritual authors warn that this is one of the most committed sins and often one of the least recognized. We think we care about the ways of God, but act in a contrary manner.
The antidote to this spiritual malady is to be awake and aware always about the ways of God, in all our daily thoughts, words, and actions; to make God’s way matter in our daily choices and not to ‘forget’ about it.
Given all the distractions of modern daily life, we need to take special care to always come back to a proper prioritizing of the reality that invades our daily perceptions. It is easy to get lost in the daily grind of making sense of what happens. Many times a day we need to ‘remember’ the spiritual realities of our lives and see in them the organizing principles of meaning in our daily reality.
“Lest we forget…” God gives us the yearly season of Lent to re-prioritize our lives around the spiritual and to lessen the numbing impact of the sensual and physical. It is a season when we are called to remember that we are eternal and spiritual beings, and that what we often think of as important in our lives is really transitory and can cause us to forget what is truly central and of eternal meaning.