Meditation for Thursday after Ash Wednesday


First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
Gospel: Luke 9:22-25
 
We are called to obey God’s commandments and take joy in the Lord’s laws, yet we are also called to take up our cross daily and to lose our life for Christ’s sake.  How do we resolve this seeming contradiction?
 
The first part of the above statement may also seem like a contradiction to many.  "How can we obey a bunch of rules and laws, and be joyful about that?"  (For many, the 6th Commandment alone seems to cut out a lot of fun!)  One way to look at it is the way we look at sports or games. 
  • If we wish to play football, we need to set up end zones (goals), as well as sidelines (boundaries).  How can score be kept if we don’t know what constitutes a score?
  • We need to know our roles – the rules of the position we’re playing.  e.g., there’s no fun if everybody’s a quarterback – that’s not football, that’s just a game of catch where everybody is throwing, but nobody’s catching!
  • We also need to be sure, not only of what the rules are, but that everybody is playing by the same rules.  e.g., if we’re playing a scratch game, we might make a rule that there are no blitzes until a count of 5 – it’s no fun if one person blitzes whenever they feel like it.  It certainly makes no sense if someone plays football with a hockey stick!

So, rules make sense in recreation.  They also make sense in the game of life as well.  And the rules of life are pretty simple to learn.  They are not, however, so easy to implement.  It may be easier for some than for others, and it may be easier at some times and situations than at others.  This is why G.K. Chesterton said:

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." – Chapter 5, What’s Wrong With The World, 1910

Are these rules too hard then?  Are they impossible?  Should they be discarded, or selectively followed?  If we do not realize that God’s grace can help us, then the temptations to write them off as impossible to follow will become too great for us.  However, through God’s grace, and by the example of the obedience of Jesus, we can see as Chesterton did:

"The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden." – Illustrated London News 1-3-1920

The laws are liberating, not debilitating.  To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, this life is like a large backyard that looks over a cliff – we have freedom to run wherever we wish, as long as we obey our Father and do not play too close to the edge.  The rule of our Father is liberating while limiting – it is the fall from the cliff that is debilitating.  So, by taking up the cross of obedience, we can save our life and have joy in the laws of God.

This is just one small example of how the cross is a sign of contradiction.  There is much more to meditate about this – what I have just written is a drop in the ocean.  I hope that you will choose life, and explore the depths of that ocean.

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