The way of life.
If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
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Today we enter the Pre-Lenten season. I say that every year, and perhaps this year I have come to understand it even better because I better understand the nature of choices. We do that as we get older because, as some would say, we have wisdom. Others would say that we now see the long-term consequences of our decisions. Did that decision lead to good, or did it create a disaster.
Ben Sira of Jerusalem, or in short Sirach, shares various versus of wisdom with us, things learned from the Spirit of God for right living. Today, he presents us with some real age-old wisdom we totally connect with: There is a hot stove, donâ€™t touch it. As I just mentioned, wisdom comes from experience with choices made. I wonder how many times Ben Sira touched the hot stove after his mom told him not to. Ben Sira knew, as wisdom, the fact that touching a hot stove leads to disaster while listening leads to good.
That is the way of God. We have a way of life before us. Will we reach out to His life or chose death?
St. Paul tells the Corinthians the practical truth: What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
Paul is speaking from experience, i.e., the wisdom he had acquired from Jesus on the road to Damascus. Meeting Jesus caused him to pull his hand away from the stove and to choose life. He said to himself, Wow, I was about to be burned bad, I could not see it, I could not hear it, my heart was closed to it, but now I know what God has in store for me if I chose His way of life.
It is of note that the Corinthians were new Christians, for not more than three years. They were falling back into their former way of life in so many ways. They were running headlong to each and every hot stove they could find. Paul is reminding them of that choice, the fact that they will be burned, and in being burned will reject all God has in store for them.
Jesusâ€™ commandments to us, His way of life built upon His Fatherâ€™s Commandments, may seem anachronistic to us. Divorce is common. Treating people as sexualized objects, without humanity, is not just a way to sell music and products, but a commonplace way of life. Disrespect for others, calling them empty (raqa) or impious (foolish), basically non-human, most especially online, is easy. The stoves seem to be so much fun. Jesusâ€™ way of life so difficult. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Let us then take this Pre-Lenten opportunity to identify the stoves in our lives, those areas of disaster we reach out to. Let us recall what will happen if we do not stop, and focus our Lent on eliminating them, choosing life with God.