Thursday, February 23, 2012

“He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.”

Whatever troubles may be before you, accept them bravely, remembering Whom you are trying to follow. Do not be afraid. Love one another, bear with one another, and let charity guide you all your life. God will reward you as only He can. - St Mary MacKillop

(Deuteronomy 30:15-20)
Moses said to the people:
"Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Choose life – that sounds easy enough to do – common sense - why would Moses even say this to the Israelites? In the Gospel, Jesus tells his followers that to follow him they must take up their crosses daily, and be willing to lose their lives for him, if they want to save their lives (Luke 9:22-25). The only way to understand these contradictory and confusing statements is through the eyes and heart of faith.

We choose life and save our lives by obeying the Lord's commandments (Dt 30:16). To do our “own thing” is to choose death, contrary to popular opinion. We choose life by obeying the Lord to the point that we are repeatedly denying ourselves. We deny ourselves so much that we no longer have lives of our own (Gal 2:20). We have lost our lives for Jesus' sake. We take up our cross each day (Lk 9:23) so that we are finally crucified with Christ (Gal 2:19). Choosing the daily crosses leading to crucifixion is the only way to choose life.

Society today stands dramatically against many of the teachings of the Church, especially in areas of sexual morality. Contraception and abortion are but two of a number of important issues that the Church has always taught are gravely immoral, but that society today tells us are “rights” entitled to all people. Standing up for our beliefs as Catholics, especially against these things is perhaps our greatest challenge of this day and age. It is certainly not easy at times, but as we are reminded in the first reading today, we stand between “life and prosperity, [and] death and doom” (Dt. 30:15).

This is why I love today’s Gospel. Christ puts before us a bold challenge: Do you really love me? Do you truly trust me? Then take up your own crosses each day and follow me!

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