Moses sets before the people today a blessing and a curse. It is hard to imagine that anyone would really choose a curse, but every time we sin we do. Why? How is it we can turn our back on God’s gift of life and choose the curse? Well, choosing life has consequences. Standing up for what is right and true can be hard, we can be persecuted for it. For this reason Jesus tells his disciples about his death, or warns his followers about self-denial and taking up a cross. Lent is a time where we are called to remember to take up a Cross so that we choose the blessing.
Life is pretty hard. Most people, probably all, have moments of difficulty. A loved one dies. A spouse becomes ill. A friend goes through a difficult time. A relative struggles to find a job. People in countries far away and down the street struggle with violence. Others are ravaged by poverty. There is no shortage of evil, difficulties and sin. And when these things happen, we can question how it is that God allows such suffering and difficulty. Yet God the Father sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins. To become one of us, to share in the experience of evil. And so when we find ourselves suffering because of sin, disease, evil, violence, poverty or suffering, we can rest assured we are not alone. Saint Therese of Lisieux, the saint we celebrate today, lost her mother at a very young age, and her oldest sister, who cared for her like a mother, died before Therese became an adult. Yet in the midst of this loss, she found the love of God, a love so powerful that even though she had never left Europe, she became the patron saint of the missions. She thanked God for helping her to love. We must know we are never alone, and in all our suffering we are always in the presence of God.
What do you do when you receive unexpected and shocking news about the death of someone you care about? Or maybe learn about a serious illness that you have or someone else has? The temptation, perhaps especially on the part of a priest, is to give a simple solution, or an easy answer. The suffering, evil and death we experience does not lend itself to easy and simple answers, if the answers are in fact going to help us. Rather, we have a God who entered into our suffering and evil, and provides us a relationship with him and others.