…I set before you life and prosperity…death and doom…choose life then…
We have begun our Lenten journey with the message of Ash Wednesday – sound the trumpet, prayer, fasting, almsgiving…40 days in the desert…
Today, only the second day in, in some ways really, the first day of our journey and we are told how to do that – choose life! Yet we are also told – deny yourself…take up your cross daily…is that how we choose life?
Thomas Merton talks about the first Lent – the Exodus journey of Israel out of slavery – he says, they needed to be ‘educated in freedom’ – they needed to let go of the ‘comfortable’ yet unhealthy ways they learned to adapt to their life of oppression and slavery. They had to learn how to be free. To live with no other mast but God.
Each year during Lent we are invited to do the very same thing – learn how to live in the freedom of being a Child of God! Let go of all the other ‘masters’ that have found a place in our lives, let go of the oppression of always trying to please the other – God even – and be willing to simply live our everyday lives in service of the Lord. Let go of ‘shoulds’, of unrealistic expectations, of becoming better than, or stronger than, or too comfortable with self-centeredness, greed, busyness or rampant consumerism. We are invited to learn how to journey through our own ‘passions’ on this life journey – to discover anew, that it is in the going through rather than going around – it is discovering as Jesus discovered, we can do anything with God’s help – but sometimes, like Jesus, we need to go to the garden first and lament – to shout out – so God can enter and transform whatever needs transforming – What in our life needs to be transformed? Are we willing to take God with us and be ‘educated in freedom’?
Faith Offman is the Associate Director of Ministry at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Michigan.