Today's readings resound with calls to Life. I think it's interesting to see how the various Biblical Authors address the topic of life in these readings.
In Deuteronomy, Moses speaks of a "long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Dt 30:20). He also promises, "and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy" (Dt 30:16).
For Moses, and in the Old Testament in general, the concept of "Life" often refer to "life on the land" - life lived here in the earthly kingdom - lived richly and well in the praise of God. Think here of "a land flowing with milk and honey"(Ex 33:3)! Promises also extend to the earthy future to the decedents of Israel living in the promised land.
David, too, picks up this theme in Psalm 1:
He is like a tree planted near running water, That yields its fruit in due season,and whose leaves never fade.Whatever he does, prospers.These are beautiful promises, and they inspire us as they did hundreds of generations of Israel. But to our Christian ears, they probably sound a bit funny, right? Christ's promises do not sound this way.
In today's Gospel reading from St Luke, Jesus describes for us a very Christian view of Life.
Jesus said to his disciples:“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all,To live the life of a Christian is to accept the challenge of the Cross ... To live the life Our Saviour lived and to die to self to live for others. What a great reminder for the beginning of Lent.
“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?”
This is a GREAT promise! Christ lays out for us the way of Life - enternal Life. His call to deny self AND follow him thru this Lent is exactly the right message for these forty days. Think of this Gospel when you make Lenten sacrifices of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. The denials of Lent are meant to help us follow Christ - to "lose our life to save it." Lent isn't a personal challenge, a diet plan, a time to "see how much we can do." Lent is time to follow the Gospel, to follow Jesus.