Thursday after Ash Wednesday
(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25)
In the movie The Ninth Day Fr. Kremer, a priest imprisoned at Dachau, is given leave to bury his mother. Once home he can try to flee, but that would bring retaliation against other priests in the concentration camp. The Gestapo provides a more tempting offer. If Fr. Kremer can convince his bishop to collaborate with the occupying German army or if Fr. Kremer signs a letter of support for the Nazis, he could have his freedom without jeopardizing his co-prisoners. The priest rejects the offer. He recognizes that his bishop is heroic in his resistance to the Nazis and prefers to tell the truth and to give personal support to the other prisoners.
When Moses tells the people in the first reading to “choose life,” he hardly has in mind a gruesome choice like the one offered Fr. Kremer. Rather Moses recognizes that a full life of love and peace usually proceeds from following God’s ways. Still even Moses would recognize that God sometimes asks a person to sacrifice herself for the common good. Jesus ironically states this call to self-surrender in today’s gospel as a way to life. In the first century many Christians were faced with the dilemma of forsaking Jesus or experiencing death. The life he offers to the one those who choose to stick with him is not a carefree existence in this world but the resurrection of the dead.
During Lent we are to ponder what kind of life we want for ourselves. Are we going to opt for pleasure and power whatever the cost? Or are we ready to follow Christ’s way of service and sacrifice for the sake of others? When we take Christ’s option in Lent seriously, we realize that it leads to the feast of life itself, Easter Sunday.