The readings today make it very clear - we have choices to make! The first reading spells out the decision that people have to make. "Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom..." And it is clear in this passage (Deuteronomy 30: 15-20) that there are consequences to this decision. In the gospel (Luke 9:22-25), Jesus also makes it clear that we have to choose whether or not to follow Him. He is very open about what this choice will mean - losing our life if we follow Him, but saving ourselves ultimately. But He also asks the important question "What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
So what do we do with these readings? And how do they fit into Lent? I think that, if we reflect on them, they are very powerful tools to help us this Lent. Most of us have decided to do something different for Lent. Whether it is "giving up" something that we like, taking on extra things (prayers, Mass, acts of kindness) or just being more purposeful in following the will of God, all of these Lenten practices have a purpose. The purpose is to help us make better choices. If I can strip away some of the things (candy, alcohol, obsessing about work) that take up my time and energy, I may be able to hear God's voice more clearly. And if I give myself more opportunities to encounter God (daily Mass, Stations, reading Scripture), it is more likely that i will be better in tune with God as I make choices each day.
Now we have to remember that it is not very often that we make major, life-changing choices. But it is the little, every-day choices that indicate the direction in which we are moving. Unfortunately we usually do not stop to think about them, and that is when we get into trouble. We rarely pause to think about whether or not the person who just cut in front of us in traffic may be rushing to a hospital because they received a call that a loved one is dying. We usually do not consider that a person who made a cutting comment may just have been oblivious to the tone, rather than intentionally cruel. Our reactions to these and countless situations each day are just as thought-less, unless we take the time to make a choice. We can choose how to react to people and situations. And when we do, our reaction is usually much different that the ones that are automatic. How many times have you regretted saying something that just "came out" before thinking?
Lent is a time to think. To think about our reaction to people and situations. To think about our relationship with God and others. To think about where our choices are leading us.
These daily choices indicate how well we are doing as a human being and as a child of God. i hope we will take time today to consider the choices we have to make, and I pray that God will inspire us to make better choices this Lent than we have made in the past.