Wed, 17 February 2021
(Dt.30:15-20; Ps.1:1-4,6,39:5; Lk.9:22-25)
“The Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.”
In our first reading, Moses makes clear the choice we all must face: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.” “By loving the Lord… heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him,” the Israelites will be blessed with “long life” in the Promised Land; they “will live and grow numerous” by “loving Him and walking in His ways.” This will be life for them. “If, however, [they] turn away [their] hearts and will not listen… [they] will certainly perish.” The promise to them will soon die if they walk “in the way of sinners.”
Life and death. The blessing and the curse. The just and the wicked. To the Israelites the promise that they would be “like a tree planted near running water” if they followed the commandments of the Lord referred quite literally, quite physically, to the blessing of long life and enjoying the fruits of the earth. It showed itself in the numbers of people in the nation and the land they were given to occupy. When they were cursed, their kingdom was torn down and the land taken away from them. They became “like chaff which the wind drives away” when they were forced into exile from the lands of Judah and Israel.
What is the land we must so treasure today, brothers and sisters? What place are we called to preserve by following in the way of the Lord? For now he “who gains the whole world” will likely “destroy himself in the process.” Now our sights, our hopes, can no longer be set on the physical universe. Jesus has come. The Son of Man walks in our midst. And His presence, His flesh, makes the heavenly homeland our desire – it is this which is now our Promised Land. It is the number born into this kingdom which now causes our hearts to rejoice. It is this blessing that now comes to him “who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.”
And the Lord makes clear what “the way of the just” now entails. Our gospel tells us “Jesus said to all” – not just to His disciples, but to all who would find the blessing, would find life – “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps.” And His steps include enduring “many sufferings,” being “put to death” and then being “raised up on the third day.” Now it is death that leads to life. Now this world must be left behind. Now, though we love all – even our enemies – and everything upon it, we must leave the earth we have held so dear. The command is the same (to renounce all sin and love God), but now the prize is much greater, and so the way there much more narrow. But the Lord blesses our every step toward Him.
O LORD, let us remain in you and in your Son,
walking the way of His Cross
that we might not lose our souls
but gain the life of Heaven.
YHWH, may we find not only long life on the land but eternal life in your heavenly kingdom by our turning away from all sin and following your Son on the way of the Cross. Let us be dead to all the distractions of this wicked world that we might dwell with you alone.
Death comes to the wicked, LORD, death that spells the demise of his soul, of his life in you who are Life itself. And so, how shall he live anymore if apart from you? And so, what is his life then worth? It is indeed like chaff driven away by the wind.
But those who take their refuge in you, who meditate on your Word and the Word that is your Son, these you prosper in all they do, for all they do is in your will and so cannot but receive your blessing, the blessing of your living presence, LORD.
Let us choose this day to live in you and never to turn our backs to your call to love. Laying down our lives, O LORD, may we be carried by your angels.