Thursday, February 19, 2015

Choose Life, Choose Blessing

Thursday After Ash Wednesday

By Beth DeCristofaro

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 … (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (Luke 9:23-25)

Create a pure heart for me, O God;
Renew a steadfast spirit within me.
        (from Psalm 51, the Communion Antiphon for the day)

Yesterday’s Gospel was a beautiful teaching of how to pray, how to do good deeds and how to fast.  Jesus told us do not act like the hypocrites who desire to be noticed.  He tells us to do these important things reservedly, acting for God alone.  Today as Jesus talks of taking up the cross it occurs to me to look toward God, humbly and in secret instead of announcing what Lenten practice I have chosen.  Perhaps, when asked, I might tell people that I am practicing patience and generosity even if the way I do that is concrete and includes abstinence from something I enjoy or doing specific good works.  What is at the core of my Lenten practices?  I can focus there, in secret with God, rather than on the external.

During this Lenten Season my journey can be to identify crosses that I bear, honestly evaluating what obstacles in my daily life, thoughts, preoccupations and priorities keep me choosing the world rather than life with Christ.  And I suspect that this, too, must be in secret, between God and me.   If not I risk dumping these crosses negatively on those around me.  Perhaps I spend too much time surfing the web so that I buy what I don’t need.  Or I feel myself privileged so that I act selfishly and crabby with my family.  Perhaps because I am good at my job I become intolerant and disparaging of my colleagues.  In the secret moments of prayer which Lent offers me, I can honestly unburden myself to my God who knows all these crosses better than I do.  With Jesus’s help I can accept God’s love for my sinful self and unburden myself in order to follow Christ more freely, more entirely.

Reflect on the Lenten practice you have chosen for this Season.  Bring them before God and humbly ask that God bless you with insight into them, into yourself.  May God draw you closer to Himself.

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