Back in those days at Secondary school, we learnt a great deal in the field of Economics. One of the interesting topics I enjoyed was “Opportunity Cost”, introduced by John Stuart Mill – a British philosopher and political economist. We were made to understand that “Opportunity Cost”, or “Alternative Cost” is a benefit or value of something that must be given up in order to acquire or achieve something else. Put differently, Opportunity Cost involves choice which requires sacrifices. Today, the Church presents to us through the readings, the value of making sacrifices that is, the opportunity cost of Lent.
In the First Reading (cf. Deuteronomy 30:15-20), Moses illustrates to the Israelites (who were about to enter the Promised Land) the idea of the Opportunity Cost vis-à-vis making a choice to keep the commandments of God or not. These options (we are told) have their respective consequences – life or death. According to Moses, “I set before you, life or death, blessing or curse”. Choosing to keep the commandments involves sacrificing something of a negative value or benefit (sin). As such, Moses encouraged them to choose life, so that they and their descendants may live, in the love of the Lord, obeying His voice, and clinging to Him. Similarly, today’s Psalmist (cf. Psalm 1:1-4,6) reflects the same idea. For him, blessed is the man whose opportunity cost (alternative forgone) is sin, and delights on the law of the Lord. In his words, “happy indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked; nor lingers in the way of sinners nor sits in the company of scorners, but whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night”; thus, spelling out “blessings” as their reward, while the consequence of going against God’s Law leads to doom (curses).
In the same way, Jesus in today’s Gospel (cf. Luke 9:22-25) speaks of his death (sacrifice) as a necessity for a greater life ahead, because “to live, of course, is Christ, and to die is a positive gain” (Phil 1:21). Consequently, Christ encourages his disciples (and us today) to make the choice of carrying their (our) daily crosses and follow his path of sacrifice in order to be his follower, against of the “enticing happiness” provided by the “world”. For Christ, “anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.”
Dearest friends in Christ, the choice to be made and the opportunity cost find their true meaning in Christ. Lent has already commenced; this period should enable us to choose to follow the path of Christ with our daily crosses (sacrifices) and forgoing the pleasures and satisfactions the present life has to offer, which leads to doom. May the grace of continually guide and inspire us as we choose to follow the footsteps of Christ amidst the difficulties (crosses) of this present life for a greater reward ahead, while jettisoning the worldly pleasures – opportunity cost.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ