Thursday after Ash Wednesday
(Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25)
Yuval Noah Harari lectures at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has authored a couple of best-selling books critiquing Western Civilization. In one he describes the driving forces behind contemporary life. One force is that there is no morality other than what feels right to the individual. Basically this position is a development of David Hume’s made during the Enlightenment. A second force is evolution. Nature including humanity evolves by chance with no final cause or purpose. Of course, this idea is based on the work of Charles Darwin. Finally, for now, Harari sees capitalism as humankind’s mechanism for satisfying human desires. Capitalism has enabled more and more people to live in comfort while avoiding the scourges of war, famine, and disease. Harari leaves no room for divine initiative, sustenance, or finality. God for him is simply beside the point, and traditional religion a dampener to true human interests. For Harari this is the contemporary human condition. We buy into it with the air we breathe coming out of our mothers’ womb.
Needless to say, we do not accept Harari’s theses. We know that there is a moral law which supports our necessary social institutions. We further believe in God. He is not just the Creator but the one who helps us through our daily struggles and will be there when all else is gone. And we know that God wants us to take care of the needy so that everyone experiences His mercy.
Lent is our time of reorientation. During this stretch of time we take a stand for life as Moses sees it in today’s first reading. We acknowledge God as our Lord. We pledge to leave aside our baser instincts of what feels right to obey His laws. More than that during these forty days we take up our crosses to follow Jesus. He will lead us beyond self-centered desires to the state of universal love which is eternal life.