In today’s first reading, Moses warns the people of Israel that they will have to make an important choice as they cross into the Promised Land. They can either love God, follow his commandments and live, or be led astray by other gods and perish. The verse that has always moved me in this reading is, “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.” It sounds like such an easy decision but as we learn from the story of salvation, it was never a simple task for the Israelites.
The words Choose Life have special significance for me when this reading comes up in Scripture. These words from God himself are used in many pro life signs, banners and hash tags. They are strong, concise and a clear commandment. It seems like an easy statement to respond to. Of course, one would want to choose life over death, prosperity over doom, a blessing over a curse.
But for the woman or man who has suffered through an abortion experience, it can be a reminder of not being able to say yes for the lives of our children, only to be faced with shame, regret and the pain that followed. There are many of us that did not have any choice at all as we were lied to, manipulated or even forced into the decision. That is not choice and that is the lie of abortion. How ironic it is that “Choice” is the slogan for the abortion industry.
But in the healing process, God gives us hope. How fitting is the psalm for this day, “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” There is hope in the healing process which is available for all and is ongoing, even for those who have just begun the process. It is a journey that continues to unfold with God’s grace. He gives us what we need for each step…in his time, not ours. He only expects us to remain on the road. But he doesn’t promise it will be easy as today’s Gospel tells us. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” What he does promise is that we will not have to walk alone.
I have been on this journey of healing for 25 years. It also took me 25 years, after hiding in denial and grief, before I had the courage to seek the help I needed. It has been a long road with many ups and downs but today I joyfully continue to Choose Life, this time a life with Christ. It is his voice that I hear. It is his path that I follow. It is his promise of redemption and eternal life that I hold fast to. It is also only by his grace that I am able to share this with others. When you choose him, he will not only show you the way, but will be by your side every step. Today you can Choose life! It will be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself this Lent.