What do you want to be remembered for? Making a mark in the world feels like a way to count—to make a difference and be remembered. If, however, we want to be famous and have some monument constructed or a biography written about us, then we are living for the world. But when we die, none of that will be of no avail. The reality is that wanting to count is all about us which contradicts Jesus telling us to die to ourselves in order to live in him. Being forgotten feels like a bad thing, but what difference does it make other than being remembered in prayer lest we not have made it from Purgatory to heaven yet.
In November 2001, when I heard on the news that former Beatle, George Harrison died, it flashed across my mind that now he was no different than a cleaning woman; perhaps even lower. God sees only our soul, so the rich and famous have no advantages before God. Only their love and service for him and others will matter. That sudden thought—that now George Harrison’s fame is for nothing—impressed upon me how the world’s opinion of us counts for nothing.
Father John Riccardo
A few years ago, during his radio show “Christ is the Answer,” Fr. John Riccardo said he was once asked what he wanted to be remembered for. “I don’t want to be remembered for anything,” he said.
Then, he asked how many people even know the maiden name of their great grandmothers? Most of us are simply not remembered at all, he pointed out. Instead, Fr. Riccardo said he wants Jesus to be remembered.
“Jesus is the one that matters; not me,” he said. Living to bring Jesus to others, not impressing them with ourselves, is what makes a life worthwhile, according to him.
I attended a retreat once where the priest talked about the focus of self as being the problem behind pride. He presented pride as not just thinking you are better than others, but the preoccupation with self. “Humility only comes in self-forgetting, when I am not at the center,” he explained. “Christ lowered himself for us because love requires self-emptying. His death is the model of humility because he did not do it for himself. Christ did not die in our place to show us how great he was, but he did it to show us how great his love was for us and through it, he did show us his greatness.”
The priest described humility as elusive, as something that can only be achieved by abandoning it. “If we focus on it, praying: ‘Lord make me a humble man’ and then we serve others all the while looking inward, the more we focus on it the less likely we are achieving it. Inward concern about my humility contradicts the entire process.” He explained that in the end, “Doing everything you can to make yourself humble, makes it all about you.”
So even lowering yourself by saying, “Oh, I’m not so great,” or “they are better than me,” is still self-focused. Holy forgetfulness is when we think about others; serving them out of love rather than doing it for ourselves.
The messages from both priests give us a spiritual freedom. We don’t have to create a legacy for ourselves. We don’t need to work to inflate people’s opinions of us or try to convince anyone that we are important. Jesus is the important one. Through holy forgetfulness, we can rest in the spirit, love Jesus and love others, then act accordingly, not worrying about ourselves. And the funny thing is, those are the people that are usually remembered fondly, for being about love.
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