The first reading from Deuteronomy gives a great message of hope even in it’s warning that in turning away from God we will “certainly perish.” God has given us a choice, and while the description of “doom” is nothing for which to have hope, we have a great hope simply because we have been given a choice. The choice we are called to make is clear: “Choose life, then.” This is easy: of course we choose life! For what reason would we choose “death and doom”?
Yet, as St. Paul says in Romans 7, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” We long to choose life, but we are so constantly pulled back by selfishness into a life of sin. There is an awesome hope in choosing life over death, but the best kind of hope comes when we realize that once we make that choice, God is upholding us, leading us in virtue closer and closer to himself. As the Psalm says, “For the Lord watches over the way of the just.” In choosing to fall humbly at his feet, renewing our commitment even when we fail, he will watch over us.
The hope offered in Deuteronomy is appropriately supplemented by the message of suffering that we find in the Gospel of Luke. Christ chose life and still he suffered; to be a disciple of Christ includes suffering. We cannot expect to be freed from every kind of suffering just because we have chosen the path of life. Like Christ, his disciple “must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” But this should not be a cause of distress since Jesus also says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Jesus offers us a message of hope. In being his disciples we can expect suffering, but we can expect a hope that leads us through it, nearer to him, nearer to the fullness of life that we have chosen.