Thursday after Ash Wednesday, Feb 18

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, Feb 18

 Thursday after Ash Wednesday, Feb 18

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 / Luke 9:22-25

Jesus talks about the cross: "Pick it up daily and follow me"

 A young man had just hiked across a long, barren stretch of land. Reporters asked what he found hardest about it. "Was is the loneliness?" "No," he replied. "Was it the hot sun beating down on you?" "No," he replied. "Was it the dangerous nights by the roadside?" "No," he replied. "Well, then, what was it?" ''The sand in my shoes," he said. That's often the case in everyday life, also. It's not always the big things that get us down; more often, it's the tiny irritations.


What are some of life's tiny irritations that get us down? How can we focus on them during this Lent? "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps." 1 Peter 2:21


Faithfulness is not easy except if we are intensely committed to a person we love. If we are loyal, we share in the joys and trials of the other person and we never lose our serenity or basic happiness. This is also true in our relationship with God, which we live most intensely if we are strongly dedicated to Christ. We follow him in his passion to rise with him in joy. For if we are with him, even death brings life and happiness.


Making choices can be quite difficult, like which school to send the children to, what career to embark on, which person to enter into marriage with, right down to what food to eat and what clothes to wear. If those kinds of choices are difficult to make, then it may seem that the choice between life and death would be more straight-forward and clear-cut. After all, a choice between life and death would seem to have a forgone conclusion, i.e. the choice would be obviously for life.
But if it is such an obvious choice, then why would there be a choice at all? We need to be aware of that sinful part in us that will make us look at the dark and slippery options that will eventually lead us to death, whether physical or spiritual death.

That is why in the 1st reading, Moses put before the people a choice between life and death, prosperity and disaster, blessing and curse. And he was exhorting and urging the people, even like almost begging them, to choose life by obeying the voice of God and living in the love of the Lord. The other choice would be death and disaster, and there are no other choices in between.

In the gospel, Jesus made it known what his choice for God would entail - He will accept suffering, rejection by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and finally be put to death.That doesn't sound very motivating; in fact it sounded rather frightening. Yes, we are indeed frightened to lose our lives by giving of ourselves to others and sacrificing for others.

If we choose to follow Jesus, then it means that we have to renounce ourselves and take up our cross every day. That is indeed a difficult choice, but it is a choice that would bring us blessings and prosperity, life and love.


    Encountering Christ:

    1. The Royal Road of the Cross: “There will always be many who love Christ’s heavenly kingdom, but few who will bear his cross.” Thus, Thomas à Kempis began his famous chapter on the royal road of the cross, the path trod by Christ our King. This was the road Our Lord took to glory, and our own journey to his kingdom must necessarily cover the same ground. We have just begun Lent—may this be a time that we fix our gaze on the cross, not to flinch, but to be inspired.

    2. Offering Up Daily Crosses: When we look at Jesus on the cross, we see a mass of horrific human suffering. Even more astounding, as the incarnate Son of God, he was undergoing existential humiliation that we cannot fathom. And yet, Jesus deigned to call what we undergo “daily crosses.” They are nothing compared to his, but he draws us to himself so that we can unite our sufferings with his. Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote about this in Spe Salvi: “There used to be a form of devotion…that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs,” thereby giving them a meaning. .. Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ's great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves.”

    3. Spiritual Costs-Benefits Analysis: Like good investors, we need to weigh the cost of an expenditure against the benefits we hope to attain from it. Jesus himself offered some good analysis: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” Gaining the world does not seem like such a bargain under that optic. How about embracing the cross? When Jesus looked at the cross, the joy of seeing the vast multitude of souls that would be saved through it made him “despise its shame” (cf. Hebrews 12:2). Can we try to see our daily crosses, the “irritating jabs” against that panoramic view of salvation history?

    Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, there is no other road to heaven than the royal road of your cross. Help me to carry mine! At times, its weight can push me down to the ground. But I know that with your help I can put aside my fears, my impatience, and my complaints, to follow you with joy for the salvation of many souls.

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace when I perceive a cross I will stifle my whining and offer it to Jesus with love for my family.

    For Further Reflection: “Everything is a reminder of the Cross. We ourselves are made in the shape of a cross” (St. John Vianney).



Lord our God, you love us and you invite us to share in your own life and joy, through a personal decision.  Help us to choose you and life and to remain ever loyal to this basic option by the power of Jesus Christ, your Son, who was loyal to you and to us, now and for ever. Amen