HOMILY: Thursday after Ash Wednesday. Making Choices and Being Made New in the Process
We become what we choose, changing ourselves in the process.
The readings of the Liturgy on this Thursday following Ash Wednesday invite us to probe the deeper meaning of the Christian life - and of every Christian vocation - by examining our own choices - and how we make them. Not only do we make choices, our choices make us.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - "Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.... I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you." (Deut. 30:15)
\"Jesus said to his disciples: "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?" (Luke 9: 22-25)
The readings of the Liturgy on this Thursday following Ash Wednesday invite us to probe the deeper meaning of the Christian life - and of every Christian vocation - by examining our own choices - and how we make them. Not only do we make choices, our choices make us. We become what we choose, changing ourselves in the process. These forty days of Lent are an invitation to respond to the Lord's invitations of grace and be remade into His Image and Likeness through our choices.
As we walk our Lenten pilgrimage over these coming weeks we should reflect on how Jesus chose in His Sacred humanity. He walked the path of surrendered love to the Father and always chose what is good and true. So should we. In His Sacred humanity, Jesus shows us the model for how we should choose. Then, by his saving life, death and resurrection, He provides the means for our own capacity to choose to be transformed by grace.
The agony in that garden called Gethsemane shows us a very human Jesus. Yes, He was Divine and, because of that, He alone could do for us what we could not do for ourselves, restoring through His passion and death the broken relationship between God and the people whom He fashioned for love and communion. However, he was also human and shows us the path to taking the shackles off of our own exercise of freedom by directing our choices toward God.
One of the most powerful passages in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), from the Second Vatican Council, is Paragraph 22. It addresses the profound implications of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus on our own call to grow in holiness and the character of Christ through our choices. Here are some excerpts with the Biblical references (found in the footnotes) which I offer for our prayerful meditation over the weeks of Lent:
"The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.\"
"He who is \"the image of the invisible God\" (Col. 1:15), (2 Cor. 4:4.) is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too."
"For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin." (Heb. 4:15.)
"As an innocent lamb He merited for us life by the free shedding of His own blood. In Him God reconciled us (2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:2O-22.) to Himself and among ourselves; from bondage to the devil and sin He delivered us, so that each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God \"loved me and gave Himself up for me\" (Gal. 2:20)."
"By suffering for us He not only provided us with an example for our imitation, (1 Pet. 2:21; Matt. 16:24; Luke 14:27.) He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning. The Christian man, conformed to the likeness of that Son, Who is the firstborn of many brothers, (Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10-14.) received \"the first-fruits of the Spirit\" (Rom. 8:23) by which he becomes capable of discharging the new law of love. (Rom. 8:1-11.)"
"Through this Spirit, who is \"the pledge of our inheritance\" (Eph. 1:14), the whole man is renewed from within, even to the achievement of \"the redemption of the body\" (Rom. 8:23): \"If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the death dwells in you, then he who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also bring to life your ...
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