Monday, March 3, 2008

Lent - 2nd Sunday

Lent – 2nd Sunday
February 17

Genesis 12:1-4a
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Matthew 17:1-9

Do you ever get bummed out by Lent?

Some people really do. The whole idea of making the Church bare for mass. The whole idea of fasting and other personally chosen deprivations. The whole focus on repentance – reminding us that we are, in fact, sinners in need of salvation. For some people this time of year can get rather depressing.

Let’s add to the fact that it is February – traditionally one of the most depressing months of the year. Spring is trying to get here but February is generally colder, grayer, and damper than most other months.

Lent is a time of annual review. How have we done spiritually this past year? What do we need to repent of? What actions do we need to incorporate in our lives to fulfill the gospel Lenten call of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer?

February and Lent sometimes seem like they are that time of the year that we just have to slog through in order to get to the good stuff. And in a sense, that is true.

Consider the trajectory of the readings during Lent. Combine the readings all together and we get a long reflection on the meaning of the sacrament of baptism. It is connected with Jesus journey to the cross. That gut wrenching experience of Good Friday.

Jesus says over and over during Lent that the Son of man must suffer and be put to death. And on the third day he will rise from the dead.

And then he tells his disciples to take up their cross and follow him. Depressing thought. For if we will be his disciples then we must take that journey to Jerusalem along with him. We have to be willing to face difficulty and opposition for the sake of the gospel. We have to be willing to suffer. And we all have to face our own imminent deaths. For sooner or later we will all die. We will all have our own personal Good Friday, facing the deaths of loved ones and then finally our own death.

It’s no wonder that Lent can get so stark and bleak sometimes.

And so that’s why today’s gospel is so important in the Lenten cycle. This story of the transfiguration – where the disciples have a vision of Jesus in all his amazing glory conversing with Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the prophet. This is a little token, a foretaste, of what will come after Good Friday.

And, of course, Peter, James, and John didn’t get it at all. For this reason Jesus told them to be quiet about it until after the resurrection. And God the Father’s command to them? Very simply – “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The same message and the same voice when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan. The second theophany of the Holy Trinity in the gospel story. Amazingly important.

And for two reasons.

God wants us to see. This story is where God shows us a small foretaste of the glory that he has prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Just as Jesus was revealed in his glory to the disciples, the other underwritten message is that we who believe and are saved by him may participate in his resurrection when he raises our mortal bodies from the grave.

God wants us to see these things yet to come. Even in the midst of our slogging through Lent. Fasting reveals to us the importance of the wedding feast of the Lamb in the Eucharist and in heaven. Almsgiving reveals to us God’s great generosity working through us. Prayer brings us into more intimate union with God. These actions open our eyes to see spiritually these things are truly glorious. The unveiling of things yet to come.

God wants us to hear. Did you hear God’s command to Peter, James, and John? “Listen to him”. Boy, that’s a tough one. In our frenetically paced lives it gets increasingly difficult to make ourselves listen. Too many things to think about. Too many things to do. Lots of stuff to analyze. We need to really listen. To hear more deeply God’s messages to us in our lives.

God wants to show you things. God wants to tell you things. All in the name of preparing you to fully enter into his heavenly kingdom. And how many times do we miss these fantastic revelations of God because we have no eyes to see and no ears to hear? Too busy? Too selfish? Too sinful?

So here’s a radical idea to lift your lent. Do this and you will honestly look forward to Lent every year. Ask God to open your eyes to see and open your ears to hear all this lent. And begin taking note in a little journal of the things you see and hear each day that inspire you. Remember, inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit.

When you do this the Holy Spirit will show you the glory of the resurrection. You will hear Jesus speak to you. And you will fulfill the commands given to us by God in this reading.
Rise, and do not be afraid.
Listen to him.

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