Memory is a very strange affair. As it pertains to our recalled past experiences and stored knowledge, it plays a huge role in our sense of identity. We often evaluate ourselves on what we have done or failed to do, and on what others have done or failed to do. How strange that our self-image tends to be based on experiences that no longer exist and on acquired knowledge that may later be proven to be inaccurate! Worse still, our memories of past events are completely untrustworthy. We can include imaginary additions. We can block out painful memories. And only God knows why we remember some events and not others. Ask a group of cousins about a family gathering, and each of them will recall something entirely different.
St. John of the Cross goes into great detail about the purification of the memory, i.e., the forgetfulness that we need in order to grow in union with God. Gentle Reader, John’s teachings on the memory are beyond the scope of this brief reflection. However, John has a point. Our memories can indeed prevent us from growing closer to God.
Recently, a friend and I were discussing the healing of memories. “When someone is undergoing a healing of memories,” she said, “they should imagine that Jesus is there with them in the event. They should imagine that Jesus is holding their hand. It’s very important that they don’t let go of his hand.”
I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It reminds me of several episodes of healing in scripture when Jesus took someone by the hand: the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk 1:29-31), the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5:22-24, 35-43), and the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida (Mk 8:22-26). What did they all have in common?
When Jesus grasped their hand, they let him. And they held on.