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.
Blessed are they who who follow not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walk in the way of sinners,
nor sit in the company of the insolent,
But delight in the law of the Lord
and meditate on his law day and night. (R./)
They are is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever they do will prosper. (R./)
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
Blessed are they who hope in the Lord. (R./)
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 one who said that his life purpose was "that they may have life and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10) also said that his friends must share in his death and carry their cross with him. Between these two statements there is paradox but not contradiction.
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, sees fidelity as the key to the future of God’s people. "By walking in his ways, you shall live" Moses says, "but if your heart turns away and you do not hear, 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!"
But what about self-denial during Lent? If we want to be followers of Jesus we must be ready for some measure of self-sacrifice. Lent is traditionally a time for self-denial. We pray about what change may be needed in our lives, what we should give up, or take up, in order to follow Christ more closely. Is there some misguided attachment holding us back, or some habit that is not for our good? Self sacrifice and renunciation are more difficult today because modern culture encourages us to indulge all our desires.
Voluntary renunciation has a positive meaning. Giving up something for Lent is always with a view to living life more fully. Deuteronomy puts it positively, "Choose life," and Jesus says in the gospel that if we lose our life for his sake we will save it. We pray this Lent that the Lord’s grace will guide us to keep on choosing life.