In the first reading we hear how the Israelites are just about to enter the Promised Land. Forty years of waiting and wandering in the desert has finally come to an end, and Moses began preparing the people for the next phase of their history: the time when God would fulfil his promise to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey.
Moses issued them the most important challenge they would ever hear. Would they choose ‘life’ by following God’s commands? Or would they choose ‘death’ by following their own ways and the ways of the nations around them?
This challenge seems a bit harsh but it didn’t come out of the blue. Moses had spent many years reminding the people of all God had done for them. He reminded them how God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt and continued to offer them his protection. He reminded them of how manna appeared every morning, and quails every evening. He reminded them that even their clothes didn’t wear out as they wandered in the desert. But now the time had come for the people to accept their inheritance and begin choosing to live under God’s protection. The manna would stop, and so would the quail. It was time for them to choose the way of faithful obedience: to choose the life God was offering them.
As we begin Lent, God stands before us, much as Moses stood before the Israelites, offering us the same call and the same promise. God is standing at the door of our hearts and asking us to choose life over death. God loves us so much that he has opened the promised land of heaven to us. And not only that, he offers us a taste of that Promised Land here and now as we celebrate this Mass.