I promised you that I’d reflect on the Jesus I know and Love. This will continue through Sunday’s readings. These are the readings for the Thursday after Ash Wednesday.
In the first reading, Moses says:
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendents may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
We often hear 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 spouse 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 and take responsibility for what comes out of your mouth; realize your words create life or death.
In the 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)
Jesus gives us a koan, a Zen word that denotes a riddle that often takes a long time 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 a counter-cultural message. In our society people do everything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. They even have numbing pads so that you don’t feel an Accu-check stick. And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. We might be tempted to do this by running away. A quicky divorce or a cruel text message to dump a girl friend who no longer suits you.
The Cross of Jesus is all 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 immense suffering on his journey. He knew he would make people angry by telling the truth he realized in his heart. He knew that it would lead him to death as he made his 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 brought a brand new thinking and being into the world. 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, even in this political season.
Finally, I would like to be in solidarity with so many of us these days have crosses to bear 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 our 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? Now. before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the prayer of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola “Take, Lord, Receive”. Click here.
And here are all of the readings, if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.