There’s More to Life THan Life in the Flesh!

Thursday After Ash Wednesday
Dt 30:15-20; Lk 9: 22-25
Deacon Larry Brockman

Life! All of us cherish our lives, right.

But what does that mean, really. Most of us cherish a prosperous life in this world. As long as things go well- we are healthy, comfortable, surrounded by loving family and friends; and have a good source of income, for example, then we cherish life in this world. And society constantly bombards us with advice about the good life- advertisements for foods, drink, leisure activities, and other pleasures the world has to offer. For those who are young or in the prime of life, especially in a prosperous country like ours, life is good! In fact, it can be so good that little thought is given to the ultimate reality of life. A person can be blinded to his long term destiny by the pace of life. There is, after all, school, work, raising children, finding a job, vacations, kids soccer games, super bowls, concerts, and lots of other things that make life a blur; weeks upon weeks of endless activities. There simply isn’t any time for anything else.

But if the circumstances change a bit- we lose our health; our family members and friends somehow vanish; if we have problems supporting ourselves; or if we would have to live in one of those third world places in abject poverty, then our enthusiasm for life can wane, and we can become depressed or disillusioned. Life in this world can then become drudgery.

Some people yearn for an end to life when they face pain and discomfort. In fact, some even seek suicide and euthanasia so they don’t have to face the reality of life.
When you come right down to it, the truth about life in this world is simply this: Life in the fast lane doesn’t go on forever. And the quality of life diminishes with time for those who live a full life in years. Ultimately, of course, all of us are going to die to this world.
Now ultimate life is the topic of both readings today. But the ultimate life that both Jesus and Moses are talking about is not life in this world. Both Moses’ message and Jesus’ message are the same: Live your life according to God’s plan for you, or else your ultimate life will be hell.

For us, Moses words are more allegorical. Moses and the Israeli’s have just gone through their “Lenten” experience- forty years wandering in the desert looking for the promised land. When he talks about being led astray and worshiping false gods, that translates to listening to the prince of this world, the devil; and embracing addictions that serve as false gods. Things for example, like pornography; excess preoccupation with things like video games, social media, work, or pop culture; and dependence on alcohol, drugs, or even one another. And the long life in the land promised to the people means everlasting life in the Kingdom of God. This is only achieved if people follow the commandments, the Mosaic Law.

Jesus’ message is one of the most direct messages in the bible. Jesus speaks this passage to his disciples after he has gone through his “Lenten” experience, the forty days he spent in the desert. Previously a carpenter for some 15 years, Jesus goes away after his Baptism to spend 40 days in the desert. There, he is tempted by Satan three times. Jesus is offered pleasure, fame, and power in this world. But Jesus returns with a clear vision, the vision he shares in our Gospel. It is a daunting vision- he must preach repentance and forgiveness of sins, and because of his teaching, he will suffer at the hands of the establishment. But then, there will be resurrection of the body and everlasting life.

Then Jesus shares with his disciples that they too must pick up their crosses and follow in his footsteps. That means, finding God’s will, even in the midst of the fast moving pace of life. That means doing the harder thing- rejecting the glitter of pleasure, fame, and power in this world for the real mission that God has in mind for each one of us.

These readings give us a wake-up call that says- stop. Stop what you are doing and take the time for your own Lenten experience. Use the next 40 days before Easter to find your roadmap to true life. Consider Jesus’ parting words today: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself”

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