Most days I am drawn to the gospel passage given for the day in the Liturgy of the Church. In a gospel reading the encounter with Jesus is explicit and the food for faith is often directly from the mouth of Jesus.
Today’s gospel is no exception: “what does it profit someone to gain the whole world while losing or forfeiting self?” That’s pretty clear and strong, more in the style of an Old Testament prophet, and a reminder that when heard with open hearts the teaching of Jesus doesn’t pull any punches.
But today it’s the Deuteronomy first reading that has got me thinking. These verses present a choice that respects my human freedom and presents faith as totally reasonable.
There’s a lovely bit providing context just before we get to the section chosen for today. In a couple of sentences beginning at verse 11 Moses reminds the people that God is not distant and the signs of God are not hidden:
Moses says to the people: “This … is neither obscure for you nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, so that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and bring it down to us, so that we can hear and put it into practice?” Nor is it beyond the seas, so that you need to say, “Who will cross the seas for us and bring it back to us, so that we can hear and put it into practice?” No, the word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your to put into practice.”
Then today’s inspiration, beginning in verse 15: “Look, today I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life!”
I am encouraged by the way the prophet encourages us to look to see, to listen to hear, to notice the evidence in our own experience. This acknowledges the fact that Jesus is always present and working in and through us, sometimes when we are ignorant of this fact or even when we are resisting. It’s when we look with open eyes, well-tuned ears and receptive hearts that we begin to see the evidence of divine action in our lives.
Our earthly goal is not to achieve a heavenly paradise by our own efforts, programmes and methods but to know that in Jesus (God-with-us) the word (no longer a text but a person) has made the journey from heaven to earth to be with us here and now.
TS Eliot (in his Four Quartets) captures the urgent need for recognition of this ultimate fact:
“Quick, now, here, now, always…”
Eliot continues expressing the immediate implication of this, not difficult in theory: “A condition of complete simplicity” but “Costing not less than everything.”
Everything? But that’s too much!
But is it too much? Is giving everything too much? Well, given the alternative we see in the restless exhaustion of keeping parts of our lives under our own control and direction, perhaps not?
Humans are designed for whole-hearted living and, whether we make the conscious choice to live whole-heartedly or not, we will find ourselves giving ultimate priority to one thing, person, project, goal, ambition etc. Just ask anyone who says that the one they love lives as if work, money or career is really the number one.
Whole-heartedness is in us by divine design. My problem comes when I live as if whatever I choose to be my number one priority is capable of providing the answer to life’s hungers and longings.
Something wonderful happens in me when I let God be God, and admitting my powerlessness turn to the ONE who provides all I could ask or imagine in life.
It comes down to a simple and urgent choice: life or death?
- Try choosing Christ as the one centre of your life today. Take moments throughout the day to notice the difference.
- Today’s Lectio Divina reflection uses today’s gospel, but the Deuteronomy reflection above is a helpful preparation for this 15 or 25 minute prayer (as below). Try using the distant bell-rings during the Lectio as a gentle nudge to refocus.
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Lectio Divina 15 minutes
Lectio Divina 25 minutes