Thursday, February 23, 2012
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Our stay on earth is temporary. Every day spent here is a day closer to eternity than yesterday. The choices we make determine where we will be spending our eternity. In today's first reading we are offered life and death, the choice is ours. If we choose to obey God and follow his ways, keeping his commandments and clinging on to him we will merit Paradise. If not we will be up-in-smoke! Happy indeed is the one who follows the right path, who trusts in the Lord and stays away from wickedness (Psalm 1:1). How do we choose the right path? By walking the in the footsteps of Jesus who is the only way.
In today's Gospel passage Christ says, "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross everyday and follow me." To follow means to move in one direction. Christ headed for Calvary. No turning back. This doesn't seem to be the scenario with us. Most of us if not all, are facing two directions. One is moving with Christ, the other is away from him, similar to Lot's wife running in one direction but facing another. Looking back, Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 4:26) whereas when we turn back we are in a period of halt, and if we halt too long we forget where we are headed. Our minds and hearts are divided and we hesitate in following him. So between Jesus and the selfish me what shall my answer be?
The choice is left to us. Christ hasn’t forced us to follow him, it's free will. All he does is call us and then waits patiently till we answer it. To follow that call is to renounce worldly attachments, pleasures, addictions and prestige. It doesn’t mean that we have to give up comforts, it means accepting life with all its trials and sufferings. It means accepting disappointments, sickness, irritations and days without sunshine or laughter. No two days are alike, for each day has new trials hence we have to take up our cross daily; it's not a onetime affair but a daily commitment. The Cross was, and still is, a one-way ticket to heaven. If we want to follow the Lord and find freedom, there's no turning back! For "if anyone who wants to save his life, will lose it, but if anyone who loses his life for the sake of Christ will save it" (Luke 9:24). The seed must die for the sapling to grow. An egg however good, if not hatched, will rot.
A Christian life cannot be static; it has to be dynamic and active. Following Jesus is an onward march to Jerusalem, towards suffering arising from carrying one's cross till death. Today's Gospel ends with the words, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?" (Luke 9:24) The very same words used by St. Ignatius to convert St. Francis Xavier. Riches, talents and material possessions are temporary satisfactions and unless used for the advancement of the kingdom it won’t bring lasting joy and reward. Jesus left the realms of heaven and came to live among us. He gave it all up for us and offered himself as a sacrificial Lamb so that we could be transformed into his very image and likeness. What is keeping us from being like him? Are we holding on to secret sin? Is there un-forgiveness in our hearts? Do we put on the full armour of God when battling with evil thoughts and desires or do we readily invite them in? Are we carrying past burdens, hurts and guilt? If so leave it behind for it will only add to the weight of our cross.
"Lord Jesus, I place my truckload of un-confessed sins, evil thoughts and desires, envy, jealously and pride at the foot of your cross. I release this burden and willingly accept the cross that you have designed for my shoulders."