Thursday after Ash Wednesday
(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25)
“Freedom is not free,” goes a popular adage. What’s in mind here is that freedom must be defended from those who would force a people to act according to their designs. But freedom is not free in another, deeper sense. True freedom is more than the absence of exterior controls but the application of inner control to do what is good, truthful, and beautiful. One develops such control only with considerable intention and effort. A master artist freely applies paint to canvass producing lovely images only after years of practice. Likewise, to live righteously requires concentrated effort.
The passage from Deuteronomy speaks of God’s challenge to the Israelites. They are to choose life by developing the freedom that God has won for them. This means that they are to practice every day the virtues taught to them in the desert. Failing to do so, allowing those virtues to atrophy by following the ways of the people with whom they will live, will mean their death as a people. History has borne out God’s prediction. The Jews have maintained themselves as a nation for three millennia by following the Torah. On the other hand, no living trace remains of the Canaanites and Amorites.
During Lent we are likewise challenged to grow in freedom by refining the theological virtues won for us in Christ’s death and resurrection. Our repentance from sin as Lent begins faithfully recognizes Jesus as our savior. Our fasting for God’s sake and acts of charity on behalf of others throughout the forty days make us more loving people. And our focus on the Paschal mystery at the season’s end increases our hope of participation in Christ’s resurrected life.