"‘Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.’”
The setting of the First Reading is the Exodus: a period in Israel’s history that corresponds to Lent. As the Israelites wandered for forty years, so the Church walks with Jesus through the desert of Lent. But the Exodus is a journey that courses between two even more significant events: Israel’s Passing Over the Red Sea to escape slavery, and Israel’s Passing Over the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land.
These three—crossing over the Red Sea, the Exodus, and crossing over the Jordan—can symbolize the whole Christian life: crossing over the Red Sea, our baptism; the Exodus, our Christian life on earth; crossing over the Jordan, our death and entrance into Heaven. The middle of these—the Exodus—corresponds, then, both to the Season of Lent and our Christian life on earth. Each illuminates the other.
“The whole of our Christian life on this earth is a Lenten journey.” That claim would seem depressing, but only if we didn’t fully appreciate what Lent signifies. If we focus on the deprivation involved in sacrifice, then we miss why we make the sacrifice. If we focus on Lent as an end in itself, we forget that Lent is actually a means to a greater end. Why make sacrifice during Lent? The end of this sacrifice is our rejoicing.