Why does our past haunt us?

We cannot undo history, but we can repeat it

Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery by Gustave Dore

Fifth Sunday of Lent

April 3, 2022

My brothers and sisters: We all have personal stories that tell us of our past. We cannot undo our history, but depending on how we think best about how we ought to live, we certainly can repeat it. Sometimes our past haunts us; sometimes, it brightens our day. Hence, we are discouraged whenever the past brings up bad memories, and we become distraught when we realize we cannot undo history; conversely, we are delighted when good memories come to mind, and we will do everything to secure our happiness in this world. We only have “the now” to work things right if our past haunts us and the present to continue to get things going smoothly, picking up from the past that gives us so much delight to remember. Sadly, though, the world cannot give us the happiness and peace we long for in this life. But what the world can offer us, for sure, is a foretaste of the future glory that God would have for all of us.

Often, this world is all we ever think of, and the thought of leaving this world frightens us. I think the reason why we are scared to leave this world is because of our past. Because of our selfishness and pride, which drive us to sin, our story is full of sin. Sin can be described as our desire to preserve our life in this world, and worse, by doing so at the expense of others! The injustices we commit towards our neighbors, particularly the poor and the disadvantaged, the weak and the marginalized – like our helpers, children, and the elderly – will bring eventual death upon us. At this point, I remember Jesus’ words: “Whosoever will save his life [in this world] shall lose it….” No matter how advanced we are in the knowledge of preserving our life on earth, we will all die. No one has ever escaped death, except Jesus Christ, who died and rose to life for us that we might rise with Him to glory. Sin leads to death, which causes the most fear in us. Yet, faced with this reality, we continue to hope in Christ Jesus, our Emmanuel – God-with-us – who opens for us a way to everlasting life with Him despite our waywardness.

The prophet Isaiah tells us today: “Thus says the Lord… remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not… see, I am doing something new!” St Paul to the Philippians rightly declares, “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, Jesus asks the sinful woman today, “Has no one condemned you?” She said: “No one, sir.” In reply, Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, do not sin anymore.” Let us, therefore, imitate Our Lord Jesus, who forgives our past so long as we acknowledge our sins now, confess them humbly with a contrite heart and a resolute will to sin no more and avoid occasions that will lead us to sin. Now is the day of salvation for us who believe in Him. Amen.

About author


He is a Benedictine monk who is rector/president of San Beda Alabang.

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