“Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom”
It is a dramatic statement, but oh so true. True in this sense at least – we always retain the power of choice. Even in the most horrific circumstances, where one’s liberty, independence, and even life are threatened, our freedom to choose is something that cannot be taken away.
We can always turn towards the light and truth. In many cases, it will be possible to choose to act differently and so to move from a situation that may be detrimental to our well-being or the well-being of others. It might also be possible to choose to think differently about certain situations and thus to open ourselves to new ideas so that we can re-shape our approach to people or a situation and thus find new ways to respond rather than react to someone or something. Even in those times when we lack the power or potential to change the external situation in which we find ourselves, or indeed to extract ourselves from it, we still retain the capacity to choose the attitude we will adopt in this one moment.
We see this clearly in the life of Jesus. In the face of constant criticisms, persecution, dangers, and eventual arrest – he did not choose a path of ‘death’ i.e. surrender to what others wanted to impose or what the desire for safety may have offered.
No, Jesus chose a constant path of life. He acted in this way, he spoke and taught in this way, and when his physical freedom was denied he still thought and spoke in this way.
In this sense, his words ring out to us across the centuries. We are invited, commissioned even, to keep choosing the will of God above all else. To choose to live for God means at times that we do bear a cross and are asked to carry this bravely even as we live to serve and love others in the name of Jesus. Such crosses come in all shapes and sizes – it might take the form of personal costs and or suffering, it may be that we carry the burdens of another person or indeed that we carry someone else through a period of their lives or simply help them live with their limitations.
Jesus knows our hearts and knows those crosses we do bear for the sake of the love of Jesus and our neighbour.
As we enter the Season of Lent, we might imagine our journey to be like that of Simon of Cyrene – carrying a cross that was imposed upon us, but that we freely carry – knowing that Jesus is very close to us in such moments.