THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
Moses said to the people:
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Psalm 1:1-4, 6
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
Right now, people in the South are suffering in a very unfamiliar blast of arctic cold that caught them unprepared. Many are without heat, water or power. Ice and burst pipes have made a disaster out of buildings. No one, rich or poor, is exempted from the troubles there. It is a time to focus on survival.
Stories are emerging of people sharing what they have with the homeless, the weak, those without fuel or food. They are getting through until the temperatures warm up. They will never forget this severe time.
We have seen in times of emergency, that there is a kind of clarity to our lives. Anything that does not pertain to necessity is forgotten. Shelter, food, water, heat, communications, transportation, that are easily taken for granted take on a new light. Life becomes our priority. The whole world looks on and sees the urgency as well. We mourn, we feel our vulnerability. Above all, we try to help.
Moses is speaking in the first reading, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.” It is a deciding moment just as when we begin our Lenten disciplines. If we want life rather than death, this is not optional. This is for everyone.
“…loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days”. This is the cross and it is not unjust. Life is unjust but until the just one comes, God has made it clear that our life is in the cross.
As we embrace prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lent, let us be cognizant of our need for the Lord, our need for survival, and the cross he carried to give us life.