Dying before you die

In just a few days, on Holy Thursday, we will be thinking about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, going through the agonising struggle described in today’s reading from Hebrews: offering up prayer and entreaty aloud and in silent tears, learning to obey through suffering. John’s Gospel tells the story differently and places that struggle earlier, in the passage we read today, where Jesus says, ‘Now, my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’

The prophet Jeremiah describes how God has placed his law deep within our hearts, so that we all know God and know what is right and good. But so often we fail in the struggle to choose the right path. Then we need to ask God’s forgiveness in the words of today’s Psalm, approaching God humbled and contrite, and asking him to wash away our sins and to give us a clean heart and a steadfast spirit.

The death of Jesus did not come out of the blue: it was the completion of a life of daily choosing to die to self and to live for others. When we die, the scheming and conniving part of us that resists God’s will and wants all our own way will finally perish and our true self, in tune with God’s desire for us, will emerge victorious. The message of our readings today is that we don’t have to wait until we die to begin that process.

Lent is a time for practising dying before we die, for building up our capacity to say ‘no’ to our manipulative desires and to say ‘yes’ to God’s loving purpose for us. As there are just a few days of Lent left, let’s ask God to make us more attentive to his invitation to come back to him and to begin living now the new life to which we’re called.

Fr Chris.

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