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Thursday after Ash Wednesday

March 2, 2006

Blessed Thursday!

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)

Looks can be deceiving. How often have we said, “This is the life!”, when experiencing something particularly pleasant and “that’s no way to live”, in trying times? We associate life with feeling good, with being in control, with being successful. Jesus turns our picture on its head when He tells us we have to take up our crosses and follow Him through suffering and death. He says, “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will save it”. Say what?

We look at the surface and call it reality. God looks at the heart. He knows that seeking good feelings, control and success all too often lead us away from Him. These desires distort our priorities. They open wide the doors of our hearts to our worst enemy: sin. Eve was looking for good feelings (she saw that the fruit was good for food), control (“you will be like gods”) and success (it was desirable for gaining wisdom) when she perpetrated the rebellion against God that unleashed the catastrophe of Original Sin on God’s perfect world. This trio is starting to look familiar. Good feelings are the desire of the lust of the flesh. Control is the desire of the lust of the eyes. Success is the desire of the pride of life (see John 2:16). In and of themselves, good feelings, control and success are good things, but we very readily turn them into idols. And idols kill.

If we’re going to find life–real life–we have to take serious measures to avoid these death-traps. That’s why we fast (deny ourselves good feelings), pray (leave the success to God) and give alms (give up control of some of what we possess). That’s why we take up our crosses and follow Jesus through His passion and death to the fullness of life that only comes through a sharing in His resurrection. Even taking up a cross isn’t enough if we’re going the wrong way with it.

This is the life Moses calls us to choose. This is the blessing he urges us to accept. What we naturally think of as life, “this is the life”, is the curse of death he begs us to reject. It all comes down to our love of God and trust in His love for us. He wants us to have everything that is truly, eternally good, and He’s a much better judge of that than we are. He’s not blinded by the immediate, the way we are. He knows that self-sacrifice will bring us a deeper and more lasting joy, even in this life, than any pleasure we might be inclined to pursue.

God continues to plead: “Choose life, that you may live!”

May our trust in His love for us give us the courage to say “no” to desires that lead to death and “yes” to real life.

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