Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
In today's reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses exhorts the people to "choose life"; while in the Gospel Jesus speaks of "saving" one's life. The focus on "life" is both complementary as well as different as can be.
Moses maintains that if the people of Israel live according to God's commandments, they will enjoy prosperity. God will give them a land to call their own. Because these people have yet to develop any concept of life after death, he is speaking of their natural lives. This statement forms the foundation of the theology of reciprocity which is prevalent throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. If you are good, God will be good to you.
Jesus, on the other hand, is speaking of a different kind of life. We know that the cross was the instrument by which Jesus suffered and died. Saving our lives in this context refers to our life after death, our life with God. Throughout his life, Jesus worked counter to the notion that the reward for obedience was a guarantee against disease or poverty. God is not some capricious gift giver who withdraws favor when we fail to obey the commandments.
Though these readings are based on two different understandings of God, they do focus our attention on the purpose of Lent. Most of the things that we choose to fast from during Lent are oftentimes the harmful things: sweets and deserts, an extra helping, alcohol, cigarettes, another hour of television, etc. At the same time, those who choose to do more often choose healthy alternatives: exercise, going to bed at a reasonable hour, time with the Scriptures or some other spiritual reading. All of these things will enhance our natural lives. However, oftentimes they will also draw us closer to God. Lent is good for the body as well as good for the soul.