Let us pray
O LORD who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights:
give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdues to the Spirit;
we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness,
to thy honour and glory;
who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end. Amen.
I love the bluntness of the reading today from Deuteronomy (30:15-20):
“See today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster.”
When put like that of course there is no choice! Who would choose death and disaster? But actually that is what we do choose when we do not follow God’s way. When we go our own way we are in truth opting for the way of death and disaster. When we go the way Christ has led then we are opting for life and prosperity. The bluntness of Deuteronomy helps to remind us of this basic Christian truth.
This same point is reinforced in the psalm at mass today (Ps 1). The man who places his trust in the Lord is like a tree planted beside flowing waters that yields its fruit in due season. Following the divine path results in the bearing of fruit – again it is a life-giving path to follow. The result of making our decisions according to God’s ways, is life – true life – life really worth living.
In the gospel today our Lord reveals the secret of bearing fruit. It is paradoxical. The more we cling on and grasp onto life, the more we lose it. When we are anxious and afraid we tend to try to grasp and to cling in desperation. But clinging on desperately and grasping in fear do not lead to a solution to our problems. Rather it is trusting in the Lord that will lead us to the greatest of fruit-bearing trees: His fruit-bearing and salvific cross.
This is the path we are to follow in our keeping of Lent: in self-denial, in prayer and in almsgiving.