Thursday After Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2021

Faithfulness is not easy except if we are intensely committed to a person we love. If we are loyal, we share in the joys and trials of the other person and we never lose our serenity or basic happiness. This is also true in our relationship with God, which we live most intensely if we are strongly dedicated to Christ. We follow him in his passion to rise with him in joy. For if we are with him, even death brings life and happiness.
Opening Prayer
Lord our God,
you love us and you invite us
to share in your own life and joy,
through a personal decision.
Help us to choose you and life
and to remain ever loyal
to this basic option
by the power of Jesus Christ, your Son,
who was loyal to you and to us,
now and for ever. Amen!
1 Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Moses said to the people: “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. 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. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: 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. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night. R.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers. R.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes. R.
Gospel Acclamation: Matthew 4:17
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Repent, says the Lord;
the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Gospel: Luke 9:22-25
Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
“What does it profit you to gain the whole world while you destroy or damage yourself?”
This question of Jesus has served as what Buddhists term a koan (a question or a statement that is often challenging and paradoxical, and is meant to enlighten) that has led many souls, such as St. Francis Xavier and St. Anthony Claret, to satori (enlightenment). Human history and especially the lives of the saints attest to its truth: our frantic efforts to gain the world make us ultimate losers, and it is those who freely let go of their lives at the service of deeper values who gain a perpetual legacy in human hearts and God’s kingdom.
However, based on this text, Christianity and the Gospel have been accused of devaluing life and encouraging violence unto oneself. But such criticism misses the point. We are not called to kill our self; we are called to let our self die, by engaging life in its full spectrum with its joyful and sorrowful mysteries so that new life will be born within us and around us. It is not denial of life; rather it is a call to freely choose fullness of life.
Jesus entrusts to his disciples for the first time his ultimate earthly destiny, marked by humiliation, suffering and death but not deprived of glory. He then sets out three principles to remind those who want to follow him to the end. The first is to carry the cross daily, which Luke added unlike the rest of the evangelists. Second, is to be willing to give up everything, to lose in order to gain much more. Third and last, is not to ruin one’s conscience and life itself by getting carried away by material things, passions and wealth.
That God may give us every day the courage to follow him, also when the choice between good and evil is difficult, we pray:
For the People of God, the Church, that we may have the insight and the bravery to accept the reform needed to be true to Christ, we pray:
For the good people who help others in their difficulties, that their good deeds may bring them closer to the Lord, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God,
Jesus went the way of the cross
because he was loyal to you
whatever the cost.
May we be loyal with him
and accept crosses that come our way in life
without rebellion or discouragement.
May Christ give us this strength now,
that we may live with him for ever. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God,
by the strength of this Eucharist
we return to our work and to people.
Help us to live our faith consistently,
as Christ wants us to live it,
without compromise or bargaining.
May Christ give us this strength
of being loyal to his person
now and for ever. Amen!
Those who accept the difficulties of life to serve God and people, “who lose their life for my sake,” as Jesus says, are taking up their cross and following Christ. May almighty God bless them and us, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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