“I am offering you life or death . . . choose life then .
Lent is for religious people. Today’s readings, as a part
of the prologue to the season, are addressed to a religious people
– the Israelites of 3,000-plus years ago originally, but to
us Christians today as well. The choice Moses offers is not between
religion and atheism, not between piety and irreverence, but between
two forms of religion – one that offers life and the other
that brings death.
Humans are naturally religious. Look at the proliferation of religions
around the world! We make them up if we do not find one to our liking.
Even within the mainline churches, we often find a set of practices
and values that give us security, and we consider them “true”.
That, I fear, is what this speech of Moses is about – as uncomfortable
as that may make us feel – should make us feel at
the beginning of Lent.
Moses had a hard sell. He begs the Israelites – and us –
not to choose a form of religion that allows us to be in control,
but one that trusts totally in God – one that seems to offer
no security, but offers what is, instead, the only ultimate security
– God Himself. That is precisely the message of today’s
Gospel reading as well: “. . . whoever wishes to save his
life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save
it.” Do I choose a religion this Lent that mainly gives me
comfort – even in its asceticism – or a religion that
gives me to the world? Do I choose a religion that tries to let
me control God, or a religion that seeks to imitate God in His total
self-giving in Jesus?