Life and Prosperity, Death and Doom
“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” ~ Saint Catherine of Siena
With Ash Wednesday in the rear view mirror and the Lenten Season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in full swing, we embark on some very interesting and pivotal Readings from both the Old and New Testament over the next few days. Isaiah, Genesis, Leviticus, Jonah, Esther and Ezekiel are but a few of the upcoming selections on the Lenten horizon, but today the Book of Deuteronomy (30:15-20) takes center stage.
“Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom,” Moses tells those gathered, “If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.”
Sounds simple and straightforward enough. Abide in the Lord, glorify him and place your trust in him, and the abundant blessings from a generous God shall be theirs.
An astute observer of human nature however, Moses goes on to explain the consequences of disobedience to God’s laws and statutes. Just in case.
“If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.”
Lent affords each of us the opportunity to reflect upon our choices, good and bad, so that we can repent and turn away from our mistakes, our sins, and grow even stronger in the virtue of goodness, those things that by the grace of God we do well. Take the simple Lenten virtue of fasting for instance. When all of our cravings are satisfied, it’s difficult to determine that which truly rules our heart. By honing these disciplines during Lent, they become habits. And as John Irving once said, “good habits are worth being fanatical about.”
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed on the third day and be raised,” Jesus tells his disciples in what was a spoiler alert for the ages in today’s Gospel (Luke 9:22-25). He goes on to challenge our very existence through the prism of eternity. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” Jesus asks in the closing words of today’s passage.
The greatest paradox of Christianity is constantly revealed to us during the season of Lent, for it is through giving that we receive, suffering that we find salvation. It is only when we begin to view our lives, our desires, our hopes and our aspirations against the backdrop of eternity that we will know that we are on the right path, the path that leads to the very salvation that we yearn. Every decision should carry with it a positive response to the question “is this moving me closer to Jesus, closer to heavenly glory, or is it taking me in the other direction?” It is of equal importance to apply that same question to your presence in the lives of others? Are you helping to get your family members and friends to heaven by way of your presence in their lives? How so?
Take these Readings to heart today, for they remind us that our time here on Earth is in no way, shape or form the final act when it comes to its denouement. Heaven awaits, and Jesus is the way, the truth and the light.
“Repent, says the Lord; the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” ~ Matthew 4:17