Choose life – that sounds easy enough to do – common sense - why would Moses even say this to the Israelites? In the Gospel, Jesus tells his followers that to follow him they must take up their crosses daily, and be willing to lose their lives for him, if they want to save their lives. The only way to understand these contradictory and confusing statements is through the eyes and heart of faith.
As I think about my own life, “choosing life” has never been easy. As a child I knew if I obeyed my parents and teachers I could avoid the unpleasantness of writing my name 1000 times or losing my allowance or being grounded. But sometimes I said to myself, “so what?” Sometimes “choosing life” had negative consequences… i.e. “taking up my cross”!
As I grew I soon realized that there weren’t rules and guidelines for every situation… the commandments didn’t cover every aspect of human life. I had to make my own decisions. Which high school would I choose? What courses were interesting to me? What did I want to “be” when I grew up?
Now, many years later, with lots of practice with the “rules of discernment” of St. Ignatius, I have an image that assists me both in “choosing life” AND in “taking up my cross”. I call it the “little green shoot.”
Yesterday, here in Omaha Nebraska, we had 9 inches of snow… everywhere and everything in my yard and garden has a thick layer. But soon, I will see the “little green shoots” of daffodils and crocuses and other early blooms. Next summer, take a close look at your driveway or the sidewalks around your house. Despite between layered with sand, gravel and paved with concrete or black top, “little green shoots” of grass squeeze up in the cracks. Have you ever noticed how many weeds still pop up “little green shoots”, no matter how much weed killer you spray? Not long ago I saw an old tree that had been cut down to just a trunk – probably 2 or 3 feet in diameter – and there it was, putting out “little green shoots” of new branches! The impetus for Life cannot be destroyed! (Are you thinking Easter yet?)
As I listen to students discuss their doubts about professional school and try to discern their “calling”, I listen for the sound of the “little green shoots”, and help them see them also. As I listen to students struggling with family issues, health concerns, and multiple demands on their time as they try to succeed in school I help them find the “little green shoots”… and I can tell they have found it, found life and hope, by the relief they experience. A family member has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness…as I listen to him, in the midst of it all, being “filled with gratitude” I rejoice in his “little green shoots.” Sometimes choosing life is taking up our cross! Maybe “choosing life” isn’t something we “do” as much as it is a “way of seeing.” By choosing to receive everything our life brings us, we choose life. By trying to push it away, by distancing ourselves from hard decisions and the tough realities of life - like illness, death, loss – we choose something other than life, because we are choosing something “not real”; we choose a fantasy, an ideal, an image.
Gracious and generous God, help us to Choose Life, help us to see what is real, help us to know that everything that happens in our lives has the potential for drawing us closer to you, help us to see “little green shoots” in everything this Lent. Bless us with the eyes and heart of faith. Amen.
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