"I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life then..." Moses' voice rings out over his listeners about to enter the "Promised Land" and over us who are entering into the promises of Lent. He urges his holy people to do those things which will both please God and be ultimately good for themselves.
The total possession of the land was the promise, its total enjoyment and fruitfulness will depend on how well they keep God's laws and the customs of their tradition.
In the Gospel of today's Eucharistic liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church, we hear Jesus echoing the words and guidelines of Moses. "Deny yourself and that will free you to come and follow Me." Jesus begins His talk with His disciples by foretelling that He Himself will have to deny His life in order to be raised up on the third day. He then asks them to give up the self-establishing ways of their ego-centric desires and enter a promised land which is not of this world.
We ourselves in the Christian community are beginning our own personal and communal pilgrimage towards the purification of Lent and Easter. To face humbly our own obstacles to a free passage into that holy space, is not easy, but is good for us. This is a joyful season in which we let go of those things and or attitudes which keep us from admitting that we have been admitted into His holy company.
Lent, in our part of the world , is accompanied by the vagaries of late-winter and early-spring. There are the cloud and the bright days; the clear and the foggy. Spiritually, there will be similar experiences. How to stay joyful when the bright promises of a light snow turn into the salty slush of the next day. How to stay peaceful when our promises to be more charitable, generous and patient, melt into the grime of broken resolves?
Lent, this Lent, is not a good time for us to get close to God, but just the opposite. We face the walls that prevent our joyfulness and in doing that, we face the walls He comes to melt and through which He desires to enter our holy land; that is our lives and relationships. If we did not begin with ashes yesterday, we can begin today with a smile of good resolve.
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