March 2, 2017
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Happy are they who hope in the Lord! (Psalm 1).
Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 sets before us the basic “either-or” choice of human existence: life and well-being or death and misery. God’s gift; our choice. “Life or death, the blessing or the curse.” All we have to do is accept it.
Well, not quite. Three times the reading describes acceptance as listening. To choose life is to “obey” (from obaudire, to “listen to”). It is “heeding God’s voice.” Those who refuse “will not listen.” Obviously, to choose life means we choose to become disciples, “learners,” people who listen to God’s word in order to learn. This is the choice to keep learning from Jesus all our life; to keep reading and reflecting on his words and actions. Either we do or we don’t. Our choice.
In Acts, those who accepted the Good News “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” That is discipleship.
Learning is sometimes described as a “change of behavior.” That is only one aspect of it, of course, but it is true that any learning that does not affect the way we live or help us to live better — for example, by enhancing our appreciation of truth and beauty — is useless. In John’s Gospel Jesus is presented as “Light” and “Life” interchangeably.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Discipleship is learning for living. In the reading, we “listen” to “obey the commandments of the Lord.” “Heeding God’s voice” entails “holding fast to him.” Not to listen is to “turn away” our hearts and be “led astray.” Discipleship is like eating: intake gives energy for output. We feed our minds to assimilate and put into action.
That means we read and learn with expectations. But they are based, not on our abilities, but on God: Happy are they who hope in the Lord!
Luke 9:22-25 puts that hope to the test.
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.
What Jesus gives as the “entrance exam” to discipleship is humanly impossible to accept or do. Peter’s first act after receiving the “keys of the Kingdom” was to reject it. He gave the spontaneous reaction of us all.
But Jesus didn’t come to teach a human way of life. He calls us to live on the level of God and empowers us to do it. That is why, ultimately, his words and no others teach to be Christian. We listen to the divine words of the divine Word made flesh in order to give flesh to his words in human actions that are divine. That is Christian discipleship.
Initiative: Make the choice. Commit during Lent to learning from Jesus.