The vaccine for spiritual Alzheimer’s

The rapid pace of our daily lives keeps us from pausing to remember and give thanks for the great joy of life

Bishop ElizondoThose of us born into so-called First World societies or developing countries are highly exposed to the urgency virus. The collateral damage caused by this virus is loss of memory and indifference, or what I would call “Alzheimer’s of the soul.”

During the few hours we are awake each day, we receive a variety of experiences that our mind is not capable of retaining. Neither is our heart, which works at a semi-slow pace in order to pump blood and above all in order to produce that which we know as “affection.”

Many of our experiences are lived in such a hurry that they only touch the surface of our minds and hearts, and for that reason they don’t “affect” us, are easily erased from our memory and become of no consequence to us.

How heartbreaking it is to have a family member with whom we have shared innumerable joys and sorrows and who, as a consequence of that devastating illness (Alzheimer’s), no longer recognizes us.

It occurs to me that God our Father, our closest family member who has made us his children through the blood of Jesus, experiences heartbreak when as a consequence of our spiritual Alzheimer’s we don’t recognize him, so his presence no longer affects us.

This vertiginous rhythm of our daily lives does not give us pause to commit to memory. It does not allow us to begin anew with the whole of our heart in order to feel from our inmost being the immense joy and gratitude for life and for the opportunity to participate in the transformation of the universe.

The germ of urgency damages the fibers of true joy, transforming it into superficial and passing laughter. That virus atrophies the memory of my soul so that it can no longer revive the superior liberty that his forgiveness gave me or the confidence that his patience gives.

Urgency contaminates us with indifference. It does not permit us to discover the causes of injustice in our own lives, in society and in the world, simply because we do not have time. It contaminates our eyes and we don’t have time to see the poverty around us. It contaminates our ears and we don’t have time to hear the pain of a mistreated woman or of a child abandoned to misery.

gotas de agua

The vaccine against this illness
The vaccination against this malevolent virus is silence. It is there where the spirit can reestablish itself. It is there where affective memory recovers itself, and as the prophet Hosea says: “I will allure her now; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak persuasively to her.” (Hosea 2:16)

God’s interior is immune to Alzheimer’s; he will never forget us, as the prophet Isaiah assures us: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

Let us allow ourselves to be vaccinated by the infinite love of God. It will allow us to remember his love when we contemplate the beauty of creation of which he has made us stewards. That injection will give us new energy in order to walk toward and meet the person who appeared to me a foreigner until I came closer and discovered that I looked like him, that he is my brother. “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Jesus gifted us with a mother and model in Mary, his own mother. She is a woman who knew how to listen, who knew how to remember in each moment of her life that God is always faithful and that he fulfills his promises; in Bethlehem, in Egypt, in Nazareth, in Galilee, on Calvary and in eternity.

There is so much to remember. Let us take time to do it, and without a doubt we will smile.

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.

This is an English translation of a column that originally appeared in Spanish in the July/August 2014 issue of NORTHWEST CATHOLIC.

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.

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