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THE CHOICE IS YOURS

Father Francis's picture
Week after Ash Wednesday

Deut. 30:15-20 & Lk. 9:22-25

We have the same definite choice that Moses gave to his people. If they loved God and followed His commandments they would have life; if they turned their back on Him the result would be death. The reward which was promised to them was the land of Israel where they would live in safety and prosperity.

Jesus offered His disciples a similar choice. Following Him would lead them to life; by following the way of the world they would lose that life. The life He was referring to was not physical life on this Earth, but eternal life with His Father in Heaven.

In offering us the same choice Jesus explains what that will mean: a follower must renounce himself and take up a cross every day. The word renunciation conjures up visions of a dull, drab and lifeless kind of existence but Jesus was most certainly not talking in those terms. His own life was full of friendship, love and enjoyment of nature. No-one made more of life than He did. There was nothing dull or drab about that! When Jesus tells us to renounce self, He is telling us to give our lives a new direction.

By nature we are self-centred, and we have to learn to be Christ-centred. No-one can lead a little self-centred life and be a follower of Christ at the same time. To follow Jesus is to start out on an adventure of living that is far bigger than just pleasing self. We are choosing to accept a cross.

The bearing of a cross to most people means resignation to some kind of unpleasant experience. It may be a physical illness, living side by side with a difficult person, a family problem ... any number of things. There are times when we complain and wish we had a different cross, or better still no cross. Jesus understands this. He found it hard to carry His Cross and, in fact, asked His Father if it would be possible to remove it from Him at one stage. But in the end He endured it, simply because it was a symbol of His loving commitment of self, to the purposes of His Father. He was living His life according to the will of His Father, Whom He loved more than anything, and from Whom nothing could turn Him aside, even if it meant He had to carry that Cross. This is how we have to look at every cross that comes our way. It is a commitment of our lives to the way and will of God.

By asking us to make Him the centre of our lives, Jesus is not asking us to do something of which we are unfamiliar. Parents sacrifice themselves for their children. Lovers will do anything for the one they love. He says to each one of us, "Do you love Me so much that I can be the centre of your life, and that you will follow Me to the very end of the road?" Whom shall we follow? Ourselves or Jesus?

Dear Lord, help me always to be like St. Peter when he said, “Lord, we will follow You. You have the message of eternal life.”

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