“O Lord, you brought me up from the nether world; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.”
These words of today’s psalm draw together the beautiful vision of Isaiah and the healing “sign” which Jesus performs in the gospel of John. The Lord speaks through Isaiah of a new Jerusalem in which the sound of crying (mourning at someone’s death) will no longer be heard. By his powerful word, Jesus saves the royal official’s son from death. In these words we hear the truth that our God is a God who saves, rescues, heals, restores to life. “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”
These words remind us of countless other words of scripture which assure us of God’s desire for us and all of creation: “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10, 10). “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God. Return and live!” (Ezekiel 18, 32).
These words assembled in today’s scriptures mark the beginning of a powerful momentum which will only increase as we approach Holy Week and Easter. Then we will witness Jesus as he “tramples down death by his death.”
For those with ears to hear, it could not be more clear: God chooses and desires life for each of us. But these same scriptures challenge us to inquire: do we choose and desire life for ourselves? The days of Lent help us to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that we sometimes choose death over life. How?
When we choose lesser rather than greater “goods,” when we seek to find “life” apart from God, when we give in to hopelessness, despair, cynicism, resentment and isolation—all of these and many more situations mark our choice of death over life.
Our prayer today might be to hear the Lord in the words of Deuteronomy 30, 19-20, in a heartfelt way: “Choose life, then, that you may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you . . . .”
May we say “yes” to God who chooses and desires life for us!
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