“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Now here are my thoughts on Mose’s address to his people. One often hears the word’s Choose Life as a Pro-Life message. That’s important, but each of us are invited to choose life again and again, every day. This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and extricate ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within the walls of our own home that cauterise the souls of our spouses and our children. Choose Life this day in the way you speak to and about everyone you meet today. Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person. Choose your words carefully. Preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of your mouth. Realize your words create life or death.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? (Luke 9: 22-25)
My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan ~ a Zen word that denotes a riddle that often takes a long time for us to get it.
Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Repeat it often until you get it.
It’s So counter-cultural. In our society people do everything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. They even have numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check for diabetes. And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. We might be tempted to do this by running away. A hasty divorce or a cruel text message to dump a girl friend who no longer suits us.
The Cross of Jesus is about commitment. Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey. He knew he would make people angry by telling the truth he saw in his heart. He knew that it would lead him to death every step of the way up to Jerusalem. The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.
Jesus did a brand new thing. His message was that his Father-God embraces every person without exception. His message was that He, Jesus, transcended the Law; that the only law was to love. This went against the grain of those who saw him as a threat to all they knew.
In the desert, Jesus made a firm commitment to BE the truth that he saw in his heart no matter what. Jesus embodied that highest moral standard: to commit his life to justice and love, no matter what it cost him. His mission was very simple: Stay on message, no matter what. He was a person of absolute integrity. No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.
Very sadly, many in the church say that they believe in Jesus but are quick to condemn, quick to hate. If you are one who has been condemned by the church or treated hatefully, I, for one, ask forgiveness from you for I know Jesus would never want that for you. And I ask for forgiveness and change of heart for those who do the condemning and the hating.
Yesterday 21 Egyptian Coptic Catholic Christians were brutally martyred for their faith because of such hate and went swiftly and triumphantly to their Lord. Yet Jesus would remind us not put to violence put on top of violence!
Finally, I would like to be in solidarity with so many of us these days who have crosses to face that are profoundly difficult. Let us help each other to bear the cross we must carry. But remember, the key is acceptance. Acceptance ~ the willingness to be nailed ~ is the secret to yours and my recovery.
This is the Jesus I know and love: The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my hero. I would like very much to be like that. How ’bout you?
Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert, (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission. Now before you go, here’s a concert version of the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.