Msgr. Charles Pope: The Lament of God: You Forgot

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By Msgr. Charles Pope • 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.”