St. Luke 23.vv.32-43
~ Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing". And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!". The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!". There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews". One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!". But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong". Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise". ~
"We will remember them". Why? What is the purpose of it all? Memory is a precious gift, a powerful force for good or evil. There are some memories we would prefer to forget but we are continually bidden to remember.
Memory is a strange phenomenon. Especially in old age our memories of olden times remain, but what we did recently recedes into oblivion, so we remember our nursery rhymes and stories and lessons of our youth but forget the names of people we were introduced to yesterday. Sometimes the strength of our memories is dependent upon the traumas of experience. For many of us war experiences of 50 years ago remain as fresh memories.
Some memories we would prefer to forget, especially those associated with shame and failure, those which leave us with a guilty conscience.
Nevertheless we are continually bidden to remember some things, e.g. November 5th, to pay rates, TV licence, observe the Highway Code, the level in the car park where we left the car, Lot's wife, Remember "Dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return". All these mean "Let this be a lesson to you and profit from past mistakes".
Many memories are sorrowful and refuse to fade, so that grief and emptiness remain, e.g.: we still mourn for young lives ended prematurely and with those who mourn them; peoples' lives shattered by the telegram "We regret to inform you .... a husband/son/fiance ... killed in action"; survivors with bodies and minds shattered.
That is one side of the coin; now turn it over and see; time robs us of people, places, personal happiness, but with memory we may have them for ever; we remember with joy and thanksgiving the willing sacrifices people have made for us - the world with all its faults yet relatively at peace; the sacrifice of our Lord, his atoning death; God's love for his world, inspiring love in his children through the compassion of Christ; at the Eucharist "Do this is remembrance".
Life is a kaleidoscope of ever-changing patterns of sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure - yet one thing is constant - the love and goodness of the Lord. For Christians (the only people who have any sure grounds for optimism in the world) memories good and bad are precious, for we believe in the ultimate victory of the loving purposes of God.