Today’s first scripture is an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy. The Book of Deuteronomy helps us to understand how the Israelites came to understand that God had chosen them for a mission in the world, a mission that would necessitate a new way of life.
Through this way of life, the Israelites would demonstrate their relationship with God, but also, they would, through their way of life, evoke curiosity about the God they worshipped and serve as an invitation to know the one, true God.
God will not coerce the Israelites to accept this way of life, they must choose it freely, but once they have made this decision, their bond to God would be as unbreakable as the bond of husband and wife. The Israelites must decide. They must choose.
So also is it for the Church.
As Christians, our faith necessitates a decision. God in Christ has chosen us, a fact that is evident to us in our Baptism, but have we chosen Christ?
The decision for Christ means accepting the unique way of life that is revealed to us in the Church. It is from the Church that we receive the way of life that Christ asks that we accept.
Lent is a privileged time when we are compelled to consider our decision for Christ and whether or not we are fully engaged in the way of life that Christ has given to us. The practices of Lent, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not meant simply as seasonal observances, but are integral to the Church’s way of life. They are not held in suspense prior to Lent or discarded when Lent is completed. Instead, they are the ordinary expectations of the Christian way of life.
They also manifest whether or not our decision for Christ is real, or if just a matter of a superficial appearance.
Christ the Lord speaks of his own passion, death and resurrection in his Gospel, highlighting the “end” towards which our Lenten observances are directed.
As I mentioned yesterday, Lent comes to its proper end, to its fulfillment in the great events and mysteries of Holy Week. It is during Holy Week that the Church participates in the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In ritual we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and in Sacrament we receive what we have remembered.
The worship of the Church, which reaches its apex, its height, its fever pitch during Holy Week is not merely a perfunctory gesture, a mere artifact of human culture. Instead, it is always an encounter with the Lord Jesus himself.
The sacred center of the Church’s worship is always Christ and the revelation of Christ must always present his cross to us, for it is in the cross that the fullness of who he is and what he asks of us is vividly displayed.
All disciples bear their own share in the cross of Christ by this is meant that our love for Christ will always necessitate some kind of sacrifice. The specifics of our sacrifice will be different for each person, but all who love and serve Christ will be asked to make a sacrifice, and it is through our sacrifice that depth of our faith, the endurance of our hope, and the truth of our love will be revealed.