March 2, 2006 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) Gospel (St. Luke 9:22-25)

In the first reading today, Moses tells the people of Israel that he places before them a blessing and a curse, life and death. And he makes very clear that the blessing and life is going to be dependent upon their obedience to the Will of God and to His commandments.

Now there are two places that we can look to find a blessing. You can turn to God with obedience to His command and He will bless you according to the way that God does, or you can turn to the devil and he will bless you according to the way that he does. The devil’s blessing, of course, is a curse. The devil is going to make all kinds of promises about what he will do for us if we are willing to do it his way. He will promise us fortune. He will promise us all kinds of fame. He will promise us whatever it is that we want, all of the good that the world might have to offer. Jesus, on the other hand, lays out exactly what the blessing that He is offering us is all about. He says, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me, and then goes on to say, Whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

That is what we have to be about, to be able to look at what the devil is offering – who says, “Save your life in this world!” – because Jesus says if you do that you are going to lose your life for eternity. We are not living for this world but for the next, and that is where we have to set our focus. We have to make sure that we are looking at Christ and seeking to deny ourselves. That does not come easily or naturally to any of us, which is where the problem comes in because the devil’s promises are enticing. They are much more according to what we like. They are much more according to our fallen nature. But they are not according to Christ. So we have to look at what Our Lord is offering.

Never did He tell us that if we follow Him we are going to have it easy in this life, but what He promised us was eternal life. If we are willing to take up our cross and follow Him, then we have life eternal, and that is all that matters. We have to remember that our souls are immortal; no matter what, they are going to live forever. And our bodies are going to rise from the dead and they too will live forever with our souls in one of two places according to our own choice of where we are going to spend eternity. When we see it from that perspective, this life is nothing but a drop in the bucket. It is nothing but a tick on the clock. It is just a flash and it is over. If in this life we have to suffer a bit, if in this life we have to be rejected, if in this life we have to take up our cross and follow Him, then praise Him because that is the road to eternal life. But if in this life we reject the cross, if in this life we choose not to follow Him, then we are on the road that leads us to eternal condemnation.

That is why it becomes so important as we begin this holy season to be able to ask the question, not of what we want to do in this life, but where we want to spend eternity, because the path that we choose here is going to lead to one of two places. And He makes it very clear: The path that leads to hell is wide and smooth and easy, and many there are who are on it; but the path that leads to life is rough and it is narrow, and few there are who are on it. We need to choose life. We have it clearly placed before us: the blessing and the curse, life and death. We have placed before us Satan and Jesus. To choose Satan is to choose death. To choose Christ is to choose life. But the path that leads to life is the way of the cross; it is the path that Jesus walked with the Cross on His shoulders to Calvary, and through Calvary to heaven. It will be no different for us. If we are not willing to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him, we cannot be His disciples. And He told us that where He is there will His disciples be. In this life, it is on the way of the cross, so that for the next life we will be with Him in eternity.

*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.
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