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The Lament of God: You Forgot

February 6, 2018

The following tale is from the Hasidic tradition:

Yechiel was playing hide and seek with another child. He hid himself for some time, but his playmate did not look for him. Little Yechiel ran to Rabbi Baruch and said amid tears, “He did not look for me!” The Rabbi said, “That is also God’s complaint, that we seek Him not.”

Indeed, one of the most frequent laments of God is that we forget Him. So often He said, שָׁכַח (shakach): You forgot! Here are just a few examples from Scripture.

  • You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth (Dt. 32:18).
  • Your fathers forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea (Ps 106:21-22).
  • Your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Dt 8:14).
  • Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me, days without number (Jer 2:32).
  • You have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back (Ez 23:35).
  • You have forgotten Me, declares the Lord GOD (Ez 22:12).
  • And being satisfied, their heart became proud. Therefore, they forgot Me (Hos 13:6).
  • Your sons have forsaken Me and sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the harlot’s house (Jer 5:7).

Note in particular the final two, which place the source of the problem in the very gifts that God bestows. Receiving such gifts without gratitude and awe we become satiated and forget the very God who gave them to us. St. Augustine lamented this as a long source of his problem:

Late have I loved you,
Beauty so ancient and so new,
late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong –I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
(Confessions Book 10)

Yes, we are so easily forgetful and unreflective. Surrounded by God’s gifts, we grow dull of mind and claim as our own what really belongs to God.

The little child’s lament, “He did not look for me!” is God’s as well. Yet it is not God who is wounded or hurt by this—it is we. Isaiah exhorts, Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near (Is 55:6). In this alone is our salvation.

This song says, “Always remember Jesus. Always keep Him on your mind.”

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Comments (5)

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  1. I had something profound to share but I forgot what it was.

  2. Chris says:

    What an incisive reminder, especially for someone such as myself, who lives in an affluent society and pretty much has whatever I need and want. Lord may my right hand wither if I forget you. Please grant me the grace to not forget you. Thank you for not “forgetting” me!

    • Cynthia BC says:

      For a time I was fairly consistent about attending weekly Adoration, and fell away from it as work and other commitments got in the way. My husband and I now are trying to make Adoration part of our lives. I hadn’t realized that I missed the hour of quiet reflection.

  3. Sally says:

    Out of sight, out of mind. This has been nagging me in prayer for years. God. God the Father. It seems the Church itself has put God out of sight and the focus has become simply the community, fundraising, fun, a relatively false image of Jesus, being kind. The mercy, everything being mercy. But, no mention of God the Father. God as Father. God as Judge. God, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It’s as though this strange false image of Jesus has taken over and “God” is no longer relevant. Possibly the mean, old and angry God of the Old Testament has to be hidden so as not to scare the delicate spirits of the sheep. Strange as it may seem, I sense God’s anger in my prayer. Heaven forbid if it should ever be mentioned in the Church that God might just be angry. This world is a toilet, has scoffed at God and His Commandments, essentially mocks Him every minute of every day…..would it be surprising that God is angry? Speaking on a purely human level, wouldn’t that make you mad, frustrated, etc. that everyone continuously denied, negated, ignored your anger over blatant transgressions that were clearly defined? This is the sense I get in prayer. Jesus is our Savior, our Lord. God is still our Father. The true character, identity and attributes of God as our Father are being ignored so it is as if His children no longer know of Him.
    So, out of sight, out of mind.

  4. alle says:

    Thank you Msgr. Pope!
    Isn’t this the very reason why the Sabbath is a day that should be respectfully consecrated,
    and enveloped in/to the Lord? A Commandment, not a suggestion…