There are many areas of theology where we all still have a great deal to learn: scripture, christology ( the study of Jesus Christ), ecclesiology (the study of the Church), Christian anthropology (the study of us, people). But the one area where most adults are not lacking in knowledge is moral theology. God has built into us a sense of the natural law, a conscience, and for most ordinary situations we know right from wrong. Ignorance is not the problem.
Our greatest moral obstacle is our capacity to rationalize. We know something is wrong. We want it anyway. So our minds set about to construct a rationale by which our situation is an exception to the rule.
Today's first reading deals with one of the tools we use in rationalization, forgetfulness.
Moses having rescued the people from slavery and given them the law warns them:
Be earnestly on your guard not to forget
As the pastor of a Church dedicated to St. Patrick, I have found myself over the last few years reading more and more about the Irish Potato Famine and the 19th century immigration to the US. The more I read the more perplexed I am when I hear anyone of Irish decent talk disparagingly about the Hispanic immigrants of today. And when reminded of how their ancestors were treated, the response is often "But that was different..." followed by a rationalization of why their lack of charity and love for neighbor is somehow justifiable.
When we forget, particularly the painful parts of our own history,we lose one of the keys to compassion. If you can remember how you felt when you were the subject of gossip, you are less likely to gossip about others. Remember how you felt when you were made fun of, and you will not make fun of others.
Throughout the Old Testament it was precisely when the people of Israel forgot how they had been mistreated and how God had rescued them that they fell away. The role of the prophets was to remind them, to call them back.
Are their things that we have conveniently forgotten that we need to remember this Lenten season?