What Can You Learn From History?

by | Mar 15, 2023 | Formation, Reflections

I don’t often think of it. But one of the courses that influenced my life was a history course.

Before that course, I thought of history as the dull memorization of dates. Fr. “Bunk” Russell taught me that there was so much to learn from history. He taught us to “question” history. Not only what happened? Why did it happen? What can I learn about today and tomorrow?

In this Vincentian Mindwalk explore with me what yesterday can teach us about today and tomorrow.

The Exodus is our history

Let me start with the most important event in the history of our Jewish ancestors – the Passover and Exodus.

The story of the Exodus is one of the most important and inspiring stories in all human history. It is a story of liberation, redemption, and faith, and it has been cherished and celebrated by the Jewish people for thousands of years. A people, once enslaved to another people, was set free.

Passover is more than just a meal. It is a profound reminder that God chose to love them. They did not earn God’s blessing. God was faithful to the promise, “I am your God, and you are my people whom I love dearly.

We read  Exodus 12:4 that God asked them to regularly remember God’s love for them.

So to this day when Jewish people come together as a family, they do not merely toast a past event. The whole family, beginning with the youngest, is asked to remember and talk about it… learn from it

But remembering the past contains the challenge to change the way they would live in the present and for generations to come. They are to always celebrate in their lives God’s love for them.

The Last Supper

Jesus’ last supper stands in that tradition! of celebrating and learning from history.

The disciples may have thought it was simply another joyous celebration of the past. But Jesus takes the lesson from the past to the undreamed of depth in the present and future. He goes way beyond their dream of political liberation!

He tells them, “Do this in memory of me!” Remember my life, teaching, and example. I was about the “good news.” Remember God loves you beyond your wildest dreams. No matter what, God continues to love us even when our ancestors put Jesus to death.

Remember that I, your God, continued to love you in spite of the most horrible things that you did to me.

When you remember this, you will be challenged to love each other as God continues to love you.

That awareness of being loved is contagious. Awareness of being loved leads to imitation… or, in contemporary language “paying it forward” or evangelization. It far surpasses the manipulative implications of “if I do this, you must do that.”

History as past, present, and future

Each time we gather we give thanks for the most amazing demonstration of God’s love in all of history. Love even, and especially, for enemies, those who are different and even hostile.

This thanksgiving for the unconditional love God has shown us individually and collectively draws from us a commitment in the present. Giving thanks means the practical realization that I must love as Jesus as shown us… unconditionally!

Paul clearly got that when he wrote, there are no differences before God. There is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Mexican nor European, Democrat or Republican, etc.

We draw hope and strength from the belief that we will finally understand the fulfillment when, with Jesus, we will break the barriers of space and time.

Questioning our history and ourselves

Are we challenged to learn from the past, live in the present and look forward to an eternal future?

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk