Readings for Today
When we think of freedom, we often think that being free means to do whatever we want, when we want. We can easily see that to be free is to have no limits to our activity. And on one level, such a world might seem quite attractive. But those who have made significant choices in their lives, like to get married, to have children, or even to have a pet, come soon to realize that while they were free in making these choices, they were not free in being able to do whatever they want. They chose to be responsible in their choice to a new way of living. Doing whatever we want might seem like freedom, but in fact, it is license. And if we do not control our license, then usually it controls us.
We might like to eat all the candy we could possibly eat, we might like to be totally free in every relationship, or even being totally free in the way we treat others. But if we were totally free, without limits, we would soon discover that this choices of license, choosing to eat candy or vegetables, would create in us a world were we would find these unfettered choices leave us less free.
The type of freedom that we seek, to be truly our authentic selves, means often that we need to set limits for ourselves, and choose to do things we might not want to do. What parent really wants to get up at 2am to care for a sick child? What person on a diet does not know they need to limit what they want to eat? In this second type of freedom, it is not emphasizing what we want to do, but rather, whom do we wish to become?
It is this second type of freedom, where the focus is on becoming, not doing, that is emphasized in today’s first reading. “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.” I think these words are a good way to begin Lent. Do we choose life or death?
The purpose of self-denial is really to help us to discover what is really important in our lives. We might give up something we really like for Lent, in order to focus on something more important. We might choose to give up Facebook for Lent, in order to focus more upon prayer. We might choose to give up sweets, to help us focus more on the significant suffering others might have in their lives. We might seek to be more charitable to those in need, to be kind to the co-worker who drives us up the wall, or to find some time for silent reflection to examine our relationship with God.
Moses challenges us to choose life, that fulfilling life that is eternal. Too often though, the temptation is not to focus on our relationship with Jesus, but rather to check off a set of rules. This matters because when we focus only on the Ten Commandments, for example, we could become proud. We might be able to say that we have not stolen, lied, committed adultery, murdered or blasphemed. But have we really entered into that type of conversion which moves our friendship with Jesus deeper and deeper?
Choosing life means focusing upon making the most of the precious gift we have been given of ourselves. God has made us in his image. We are called to something more wonderful that we can possibly imagine. And so we are asked, “Do you choose life or death, the blessing or the curse.” Choose life.