14 February. Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Deut. 30:15ff. A call to fidelity:”Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live!”
Lk 9:22ff. Jesus predicts his passion; and his disciples must carry their cross each day, after him.
First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Gospel: Luke 9:22-25
Jesus said to his disciples, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
The same Jesus who declared that his ideal in life was “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10) also spoke of his followers having to share in his death and carry the cross with him. These words are in paradoxical tension, but surely not in contradiction. Indeed from the start of the church it has been a fixed principle that only through dying with him can we enter the fullness of life.
Deuteronomy, a book much loved and used by Jesus, presents fidelity as the key quality that will assure a happy future for God’s people. “By walking in his ways, you shall live” it says, but if your heart turns away and you do not hear, I declare to you today that you shall perish!” In this, his final address to the people he has led out of slavery and into the Promised Land, Moses ends with the heartfelt appeal: “Choose life!”