Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jesus Makes Joy A Choice

February 19, 2015
Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Jesus Makes Joy A Choice
Choose life, then.

No one has to be unhappy. That’s easy to say if you’re healthy, survivingly wealthy, and not living in a war zone.

Nevertheless, God says a-priori: “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom… Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.”

So is “heeding God’s voice” going to put food on the table in a famine-struck country?

One answer, which is true in spite of being ultimate, is what Jesus told Satan when he rejected the temptation to be a “peace and prosperity” Messiah: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” And he went a step farther: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Matthew 4:4; John 6:51).

Okay: Jesus calls us to redefine life and happiness. True, he didn’t say, “I came that all might have perfect health,” or “have enough to eat.” But he did say, “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

For most of us, however, the question is not about finding happiness in spite of hunger, oppression and violence; not even, for most of our lives at least, in spite of sickness. The choice is much simpler than that. And for that reason, we can make our choice without being conscious of what we have chosen.

We can choose implicitly, without “sufficient refection” and “full consent of the will,” between “life to the full” and life that is just moderately satisfying. Or between limited contentment and full joy.

Jesus offers “life to the full,” which carries a corresponding measure of joy. Do we really believe that?

There are ways to test ourselves on that. The Responsorial Psalm (1:1-6) gives one: anyone who truly believes also hopes: “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” And a sign of this hope is that one does not just keep God’s commandments, but “delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.” If we really believe Jesus offers “life to the full” we will want to absorb everything he teaches, follow his example consistently, and grow into perfect union with his mind and heart.

In other words, be committed disciples.

Is this so hard to do?

No; a “disciple” is by definition a learner; one who is not yet completely formed. To be a disciple, all we have to do is begin. But we have to begin with commitment. We don’t have to “meditate on his law day and night,” but we have to set aside a specific time to read and reflect on God’s word (directly or through books that explain it), and stick to it. A sporadic reader is not a student. A student is one committed to study, and for humans a commitment, to be real, must be specific about time and space. Humans only act in time and space, so until we have decided when and where we will “meditate on the law of the Lord,” we have decided nothing. That means, if we are honest, that we really do not believe Jesus offers “life to the full,” or we don’t “hope in the Lord” enough to think it is really available to us, or we just don’t love life or God enough to “choose life” to the full, so that “we and our descendants” may live and give the joy Jesus offers to those who live by faith, hope and love.

But we were all given the gifts of faith, hope and love at Baptism, so we can choose life
—and joy—“to the full” if we want to. We just have to begin by committing ourselves to begin.

Begin what? Begin reading a little bit of the Bible every day. Doing that won’t make you a saint (right away), but it will make you a disciple. And that leads to everything else.

Do I choose to let Jesus give me the fullness of life and joy?

Pray all day: “Lord, inspire me to begin, and help me to continue.”

Practice: Put a Bible on your pillow. Read at least one line a night.

Discuss: Assuming you know how to read, can you be a good Christian without reading the Bible?

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