Thursday, February 22, 2007

NB: The following reflection is really a mistake that I shamelessly decided to post anyway. The Mass readings and prayers today should be for the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. Sincere apologies...
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Choosing Life

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4-6; Luke 9:22-25

Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists…

Today, just a day after Ash Wednesday, we are reminded quite bluntly of what’s at stake in these forty days of Lent. It’s nothing less than a matter of life and death. Whatever sacrifices we may choose to make during this time are meant to help us to make this choice well in every circumstance. Our self-denial is meant to train us continually to turn away from death and to choose life.

At first glance, it may seem a ridiculously easy choice to make. Who among us, except the masochistic or suicidal, would wish to choose death? Why then should anyone need to undergo training in order to choose life over death? But the choice is far more difficult than we sometimes imagine. There are at least two aspects to the difficulty.

The first is a question of clarity. That is, we don’t often know what life and death really look like. For example, is life about having enough to eat and drink? After all, we would thirst and starve to death without drink and food. Yet we may remember Jesus telling us not to worry about what we are to eat and what we are to drink (Mt 6:25). There is something even more important than these basic necessities. Rather, as we heard in the first reading: in this your life consists… loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him… And Jesus says the same thing in the gospel: Anyone who loses his life for my sake… will save it. To find life is to follow Christ, to cling to God, at all costs, even unto death. This is a hard teaching, a counter-intuitive instruction. Not only is it difficult to swallow theoretically, but it is especially difficult, in our daily living, to distinguish the choices that lead to true life in Christ from those that lead to death.

The second aspect of the difficulty has to do with courage. Even when we do see clearly the choices before us, we don’t always have what it takes to do the right thing. Our desire to cling to God, our desire for true life, is not strong enough to overcome our desire for other things, and our fear of what will happen to us if we give them up. It is often for want of courage that we choose death.

Today, I continue to write from the perspective of one who recently witnessed another making that final journey from this world to the next. We may think that this final curtain call is not really a matter of choice. We all have to die, whether we like it or not. And yet, we do have a choice at least as to how we will face death. For example, one can go out kicking and screaming and finally succumb grudgingly and even despairingly to the inevitable. Or one can choose, however painful the struggle may be, to relinquish one’s hold on earthly life, in order to continue clinging to the God who ushers us into life eternal.

In order to make that final choice well, much depends on how we make the various choices that are placed before us at every moment of every passing day. To choose well we need training. We need to prepare our hearts to receive the clarity and the courage that is the Lord’s gift to his followers. This is what is at stake in our Lenten discipline. It is truly a matter of life and death.

Choose life then…

1 comment:

  1. thank you for this post :)

    Once again your words describe exactly how i feel.

    i'm begining to think there might be a repeating pattern developing. Hah!