Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et pulverem reverteris.
O Man, remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
Recordatus autem Deus Noe cunctarumque animantium...
[Gen 8, 1]
And then God remembered Noah and all the animals...
Recordatus est Abrahae et liberavit Lot...[Gen 19, 29]
[God] remembered Abraham and liberated Lot...
Recordatus quoque Dominus Rahelis, exaudivit eam et aperuit vulvam illius. [Gen 30, 22]
...then God remembered Rachel: He heard her and opened her womb.
...et audivit gemitum eorum ac recordatus foederis quod pepigerat cum Abraham, Isaac et Jacob... [Ex 2,24]
...and [God] heard their groaning and remembered the covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Cognovit autem Helcana Annam uxorem suam et recordatus est eius Dominus... [1 Sam 1, 20]
Alkana had relations with his wife Hannah and God remembered her...
God has a very good memory. We do not often think about God remembering anything since we believe in Him as all knowing. We read these sentences and we ask ourselves how it could be that the Word of God could picture Him as forgetful. Is it that He is just being humble? Isn't it impossible that He could forget? How could He forget Noah? He surely didn't forget Jonah in the belly of the fish and then suddenly remember, did He? What about Elizabeth? Had He forgotten her too and then decide to remember? He certainly did not forget Mary. He seems to have had His eye on her since the promise He made to Adam and Eve in the Garden.
What, therefore are we to learn from this early form of speech that shows us God remembering?
The first thing that we must keep in mind is that God doesn't forget. He is always on top of things. He doesn't forget because for Him there is no time. Everything is the eternal present. So, when the Bible states that God remembers, it means that for us humans, it is time for something miraculous to happen. Every time that God remembers, something big happens. In Noah's case, the rain is stopped [God didn't forget to shut it off], the water is receding, so, not that God remembers, the Ark will be opened and God is going to make a promise and give Noah, and us, some new instructions about life. [Genesis, chapters 8 and 9]
This style of writing is related to a certain school of Bible authors and disappears after a while and doesn't occur again past a certain date. However, the lesson it conveys is very strong and we hear God giving instructions to His people that require them to keep His law in the forefront of their minds and hearts forever. The lesson is, remember God always. Repeat this meal, always. Teach your children about Me, always. "I will be with you, always."
Today, Ash Wednesday, we are going to hear the word again. This time directed to us by Our Holy Mother the Church. Where did she get it? Two places, actually.
First, Jesus tells us, "Do this in memory of Me." Jesus, needless to say, knew His Bible stories. Just as we do. Jesus knew the dynamic value of remembering. He wanted us to remember every single day. He didn't want us remembering the old sacrifices. He wants us to remember the Covenant that He forged with us. He is the sacrifice that we must remember, not the sacrifices of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His is the Covenant that we must live. His is the sacrifice that we must remember in the meaning of "making something happen." When we remember to join Him around the altar for the supreme Sacrifice, He remembers us and together we live the New Covenant in the living presence of God.
Second, we are advised by Holy Mother the Church to remember who and what we are as creatures of God, i.e.,
Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris. [Gen 3, 19]
Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
When we do this, we don't only remember ourselves. We remember our history. We remember the mission that God gave us even as He was closing the Garden Gate behind us. He was telling us to remember whence we came and where we had to go. He was telling us to remember that it is to the Garden that we should return. He promised us that the Gate would open. He would see to it. He also told us that it was to be through our remembering His Promise to us that others would find their way to the Garden as well. He was thereby telling us that we had to join Him in making "something happen." Remember, O Man whence you come, for that is where you are called to return.
In 1846 the Mother of Jesus appeared to two illiterate cowherds in the French Alps, above the hamlet called La Salette. Our Blessed Mother spoke for about twenty minutes to the children. Her lesson was one that called upon us all to change our way of life or forever be starved from our eternal salvation. At one point she said, bluntly, "If you are not converted, I will be forced to let the arm of my Son fall." Further she said, "If the wheat and potatoes are spoilt, it is because of you." To help put her message across, toward the end of her talk to us through the children, the "Beautiful Lady" [they always called her that] turned to Maximin, the little boy and said,
"Have you never seen wheat that is spoilt, my children?"
"No, Madam," they replied.
"But you, my child," she insisted, addressing the little boy in particular, "you must surely have seen some once when you were at the farm of Coin with your father. (Coin was a hamlet near the town of Corps).
The owner of the field told your father to go and see his ruined wheat. You went together. You took two or three ears of wheat into your hands and rubbed them, and they fell into dust. Then you continued home. When you were still half an hour's distance from Corps, your father gave you a piece of bread and said to you: "Here, my child, eat some bread this year at least; I don't know who will eat any next year, if the wheat goes on like that."'
Confronted with such precise details, Maximin eagerly replied: "Oh yes, Madam, I remember now; just at this moment I did not remember."
The Blessed Virgin then closed her lesson by giving them a mission, consonant with the memory that she caused to happen: "Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people."
Just as we are commanded by Her Son to make it happen in "memory of me," our Holy Mother makes us remember where we come from so that we can help her and Her Son make the miracle of conversion happen.
[Note: When the boy's father heard that the Beautiful Lady had remembered that episode in his life, he immediately converted and never missed a daily Mass for the rest of his life.]
Therefore, I tell you, Mementote, nolite lacrimare ante sarcophago meum.
Remember, no crying in front of my casket.