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Thursday after Ash Wednesday

February 10, 2005

Blessed Feast of St. Scholastica! (look for her biography in a neighboring post)

Today’s readings:
Deuteronomy. 30:15-20 (choose life; choose God)
Psalm 1: 1-6 “Happy are they who hope in the Lord”
+Luke 9:22-25 (sacrifice is part of following Christ)

It’s your choice: life and blessing, or death and cursing.

Choose life!

On the surface, that sounds too obvious to merit even mentioning, but over and over again we misguided humans have demonstrated that we need to keep hearing this message that God first gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam chose death. Generation after generation, we follow his example. When he disobeyed God, Adam’s soul died an eternal death (even though his body kept functioning for an extended lifetime), a death from which only God could resurrect him. The message is repeated throughout the Old Testament: keep God’s commandments and you shall live and prosper. Neglect them to your own peril. Yet we choose sin, which leads to death–both spiritual and physical death.

This death of sin is particularly insidious because it drives us away from our only source of rescue. We see it already in the first chapters of Genesis when Adam said, “I was afraid…so I hid” (Genesis 3:10). Only God could heal Adam’s mortal wound, yet it was that very wound that caused Adam to hide himself from God. Had God not sought him out, Adam would never have recovered. This is the grace we celebrate in the Sacrament of Confession. This is the mercy we see in the Good Shepherd who searches for His lost sheep. God knows our sin. He knows that we will avoid Him when we need Him most. That’s why He calls to us, “Beloved child, where are you?” He knows that we will have to overcome our fear in order to come out of hiding. When Jesus told us that we would need to take up our cross daily and follow Him in order to save our lives (Luke 9:23-24), He knew that part of that cross is vulnerability before Him; is revealing our sins to Him in the confessional so that He can restore our life.

This concept of sin leading to fear and hiding has been a clue for me lately, a tell-tale sign of sin, if you will. Is there anything I feel like hiding from God or from my husband? Is there something I’d be ashamed to mention? Would I feel funny about revealing my identity as a Catholic after a disagreement with someone (because of the way I treated them)? If so, that’s a good spot to examine more closely with God in the light of His commands. Jesus is, after all, the Light of the world (John 8:12), and He said that there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed (Luke 12:2).

Even if it isn’t sinful yet, things that lurk in the shadows tend to spawn fear beyond their reality (of course, evil has no reality of its own, but that’s another topic for another day). The most innocent of these “lurkers” are like the monster under the bed in the middle of the night that turns out to be a pair of slippers in the light of day. Angels keep telling us “Fear not” (Luke 1:13 & 30, Luke 2:10, etc.). Jesus said the same several times (Matthew 10:26-28, Luke 5:10, 8:50 & 12:32 ). Our Holy Father has said repeatedly, “Be not afraid”. When we refuse to let our urge to hide keep us away from God, when we come to Him despite our fear, He chases that fear away as surely as light casts out darkness. His light reveals the source of our fear in the context of His provision and protection, and His perfect Love casts out fear (I John 4:18).

What freedom!

That’s life.

Choose it!

(Isn’t there a commercial along those lines? “Choosey people choose life” 😉

“Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16)

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