Thursday after Ash Wednesday
(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25)
According to a famous legend, when the Alamo in Texas was being besieged by Mexican forces, the officer in charge, William Travis, drew a line in the ground with his sword. He told the remaining defenders that each had to choose for himself whether to leave the compound, evidently with safe passage, or to cross the line 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 living according to the Lord’s commandments in the land which they are about to enter. On the other hand, they may ignore the commands, worship the gods of the native peoples, and lead dissolute lives. 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 competition, we discipline our bodies to respond to what our minds enlightened by grace know is right. Of course, it is hard at first. Not drinking coffee or not daily kneeling to say the rosary seems like self-punishment with an unforeseeable end. But we soon realize that time passes quickly, that the sacrifices have palpable benefits, and that Jesus is at our side for support. Lent is not the drudgery that some imagine. Rather it is the springboard to new life.