Thursday February 14, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) Gospel (St. Luke 9:22-25)
In the reading today, we hear that very famous statement from Moses: "I place before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life." Now, of course, the American way of understanding life, I think, is a little different from the scriptural way of understanding life. Americans like to think of life in the sense of "the good life", "the easy life" - having more in this world. But that is not what Moses is talking about, and it is certainly not what Our Lord is talking about. Jesus goes even further and He tells us: "Whoever loses his life will save it, but whoever saves his life will lose it."
If we are going to choose life, if we are going to choose the way of God so that we will have the long life - not so much the long life in this world, but life eternal with Christ - if we are going to choose that way it means that we have to choose the way of God. And Jesus told us what that is going to be: We must deny our very selves, take up our cross, and follow in His footsteps. That is the way that leads to life, and that is the only way that leads to life.
So as we begin this time of Lenten penance and we struggle with trying to decide what we are going to be doing and then persevere in what it is that we have determined to do, that is what we have to keep in mind. When things get difficult and we start to waver in our intentions, what happens is that we forget why we are doing this. It does not feel very good. We are missing whatever it is that we have given up or we are getting frustrated with whatever it is that we have decided to do. And then we stop because we refuse to deny ourselves in those cases. Keep this point always in mind: that if we are willing to deny ourselves, if we are willing to take up the cross and to follow after Jesus, that is how we will get to life. The reason why we are doing the things we do during Lent is to be able to share in that life, to have life and to have it abundantly as Jesus promised us. That is what we are looking forward to.
And the only way to have it is to rid ourselves of the things that keep us from that life. The things that are going to keep us from that are things of the self rather than denying the self, rejecting the cross rather than taking it up, and walking in our own way rather than following His way. That is the choice that is put out before us. We have the life and the death, the blessing and the curse. The blessing and the life are to deny the self, to take up the cross, and to follow Him. The curse (which our world would call the blessing) is to indulge the self, to reject the cross, and to walk our own path. The choice is entirely ours, but the advice has not changed. Choose life that you may have a long life - eternal life with Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.