”Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.”. ~ Arthur Miller
In today’s 1st Reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20), Moses lays out the steps for achieving perfect harmony with God. Or to use his words, “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.” He goes on to explain that “If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.” God loves those who keep his Commandments, which he gives to us out of love and for our own benefit. By keeping them, we in turn show our love for God. In many respects, the Commandments serve as the conduit through which this love between the Creator and his creation constantly flows.
In our Gospel (Luke 9:22-25) we look in on Jesus as he foreshadows his fate on the cross, explaining to his disciples that he will be harshly rejected while suffering greatly, both physically and emotionally, his bitter anguish and passion culminating in what would be his brutal death on the cross. Jesus then tells his disciples that anyone who wishes to come after him must do the same, that is to say they must engage in the discipline of self-denial while carrying their daily crosses, those hardships that life inevitably brings to each of us.
Only a Christian can gaze upon the cross and see victory. Without faith, the cross is a mere instrument of torture. In Jesus’ case or in the case of any young man who died by way of crucifixion, the cross was merely another ruthless display of power and force by the Roman authorities. In the eyes of those who were on hand on Good Friday who didn’t know him, Jesus was just another young man whose life was cut tragically and senselessly short. But we know that Jesus’ story did not end on the cross. Nor does ours.
It is eternal life that we pursue, refusing to get bogged down or demoralized by the temporary trials and tribulations of life, regardless of how tragic or sad they may be. Cancer, sexual abuse of minors, abortion, the sudden death of a child. When viewed through the prism of eternal Heavenly glory and emboldened by the love of God, we can carry these crosses and ultimately persevere. We learn too that while carrying our cross we encounter others who also carry their cross, beautiful people who inspire us and give us strength. Hopefully we do the same for others. But we need the love of Jesus within us in order to bear the cross. For Christians, our autobiographies are written on the cross. Jesus’ blood is the ink which allows us to write the ending to our story.
It is in the mirror of the cross, and only in the mirror of the cross, that we see our true value. When you gaze upon the cross in all its horror and tragedy, remind yourself that this is how precious you are in God’s eyes. That he would offer up that which He loved the most, His only begotten Son, to die in the most ghastly of ways. For you.
“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?,” asks Jesus in the closing words of today’s Gospel (Luke 9:25). What a great question to ponder on the heels of Ash Wednesday, the day wherein we reflect on our mortality; where we came from. Where we’re ultimately going https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Ash-Wednesday-and-the-Anecdote-for-Excess.
Profit is of course the name of the game in Corporate America and elsewhere. The depths to which so many are willing to plumb in order to secure them are brazen, unbelievable even. With white collar crime on the rise like never before, I’m reminded of the words of the French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac, who once noted “The more illegal a profit, the more tenaciously a man clings to it.” The question that Jesus poses today may very well be the most important question of the entire Lenten Season. And as Moses makes abundantly clear in our 1st Reading, we do have a choice; “life and prosperity or death and doom.” Perhaps it’s a question worth reflecting upon tomorrow too, as well as the 40 days that will remain after tomorrow until Holy Thursday?
The Lenten Season affords us the opportunity to consider carefully the “profits“ we chase, oftentimes perhaps at the expense of those things that are eternal. Those things that are far, far more valuable.
There’s an old Nigerian Proverb which rather simply states “Accomplishment of purpose is better than making a profit.” In many respects, this summarizes our Catholic journey. We have been assigned a very definitive and very critical purpose; to love God, to evangelize and tell others about him, to love those others we tell about him every bit as much as we live ourselves. We can never lose sight of that mission. Nor should we ever forget the old Cambodian Proverb for that matter, which reminds us of the sobering eternal consequences of a life outside the Commandments and the cross: “Stealing may bring profit, but hanging costs far more.”