One of the great gifts God has given us is free choice. God always invites, and never forces us to act one way or the other. While God has great hopes and desires for us, God always leaves it up to us what path we will choose.
Both of today’s Mass readings reflect that reality. In the first reading from Deuteronomy, God through Moses, tells the people, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.”
On its face, that doesn’t seem like such a hard choice. Who among us is going to jump up saying, “I choose death…I choose the curse”? Choosing life seems the obvious choice – love God and obey his commandments. Simple.
In the Gospel, however, Jesus dispels any thought that this is simple for those of us who call ourselves Christian disciples. He sets out quite starkly the choice we are asked to make. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once observed that “just as Christ is Christ only in suffering and rejection, so also they are his disciples only in suffering and rejection, in being crucified along with Christ. Discipleship as a commitment to the person of Jesus Christ places the disciple under the law of Christ, that is, under the cross.”
Christian discipleship is challenging. It means choosing to give up our attachment to honor, approval, and respect of others and to follow the path of Christ even where that requires us to be ignored, dishonored, or perhaps even persecuted.
Lent offers us the opportunity to reflect on the choice Christ asks us to make and to deepen our commitment to staying wedded to him no matter the cost.
[Cross-posted to University of St. Thomas Office for Spirituality Lenten Reflections]