Thursday after Ash Wednesday
(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25)
When Mexican forces besieged the Alamo, the commander of the fortress was William Travis. He knew that the situation was dire. According to a popular legend, he drew a line in the ground with his sword. He then told the Alamo’s defenders that they had a choice. He said that they could either leave the compound or they could cross the line he had drawn and fight the Mexicans until death. In the readings today both Moses and Jesus figuratively draw such a line in the sand.
In the first reading Moses gives the Israelites a clear option. They may choose life by fulfilling the Lord’s commandments in the land which they are about to enter. On the other hand, they may ignore the commands, worship foreign gods, and find themselves perishing. Jesus’ option is similar. His disciples may either imitate his self-denial in pursuit of divine love, or they may follow their own often selfish instincts.
Each Lent we are to renew our decision to follow Jesus. Like athletes training for the Olympics, we follow him by disciplining our bodies. We want them to respond effortlessly to the promptings of his Spirit. Of course, it is hard at first. Not drinking coffee or daily kneeling down to say the rosary seems like self-inflicted torture. But we soon realize that the sacrifices have palpable benefits and that they do not last very long. More importantly, we come to realize that Jesus supports us. We don’t find Lent the drudgery that some imagine. Rather we come to know it as the springboard of life.