2nd Sunday in Lent
Through Lent to Easter with Christ
Chapter 49 of the Monastic Rule of St Benedict states that the life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. It is easy to just be lost in the recommended observance of ascetic practices. Our Readings on this Second Sunday of Lent bring to proper perspective the spirit of this holy Season of Lent.
In the Transfiguration narrative in the Gospel, we hear about the glory of God. It may seem to be somewhat out of place. The reflection on the sermon of St Ephrem the Syrian that we heard at Vigils early this morning helps clarify this. “Jesus took three apostles up a mountain for three reasons. First, he wanted to show them the glory of his divinity. Second, he wanted to declare plainly that he is Israel’s redeemer. Third, he wanted to prevent the apostles from being scandalized at seeing him endure the many sufferings he freely accepted for our sake. Note that he accepted them for OUR sake. All that he did applies as much to us as it did to the apostles.”
As much as the Transfiguration is a prefiguration of the Glorified State that Christ would take up again at his Resurrection, it is also for us a preview of the full life in God that we may attain.
As we continue our journey to Easter thru Lent it is indeed well that we are able to see beyond the ascetic days of Lent. The spirit of the season lets us be united with Christ in his mortal life, his ultimate passion and death with a view of the glorified life in him that is ahead.
Today, we delve more deeply into the sacrificial love of God the Father and his beloved Son Jesus Christ.
The first reading tells of the readiness of Abraham to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice. This somehow prefigures the ultimate sacrifice of God the Father in handing over his Son Jesus for us all. Abraham listened and acted upon the promptings of God in the Old Testament. In full faith and trust, he did not see any contradiction in God telling him he will a father of a great nation then later asking him to sacrifice the only son of his old age. His great faith indeed made him our father in faith. When Abraham went up the mountain, he proclaimed that he was for God 100%.
When God sent his only begotten Son into the world, He was proclaiming himself 100% for us. Accompanying the glorious vision was a voice saying, as at the Lord’s Baptism, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” The Lord introduced at Jordan is the same Jesus to be handed over to death and the same Jesus to be glorified in His Resurrection. He is the same Jesus who abides with us, the Emmanuel, the God-with-us for our salvation.
Again, we are reminded of the challenge of our faith. No matter what happens, we are to listen and abide by Jesus and his teachings.
How do we take the words that we read, that we hear proclaimed from the Sacred Scriptures?
This Transfiguration event we revisit in this second Sunday of Lent tells us that the Lenten Season is not all about gloom but also about glory. The Lenten journey culminates in the Glory of Easter as our earthly life is a journey to our full and eternal life with God in glory. In a way, today’s celebration brings us words of hope and joy to carry us thru the days of Lent and beyond. This enlivens our life of hope as we grow in our life of faith and charity in the ascetic practices of the season. So as the Lord led the apostles to look and see beyond his suffering and death, He now invites us to also look and see beyond our human struggles. Let us, too, allow the Lord to lead us through it all.
Fr Thomas Merton may have seen and felt this when he wrote: “Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”
The Lord’s transfiguration is a challenge for us to likewise ‘transfigure’ our senses: to ‘transfigure’ our eyes to perceive the invitation to encounter the Lord in everyone at all times, to ‘transfigure’ our ears to hear and recognize God’s voice that beckons us to follow Him – learning to retrace the path towards Him at all times, and to ‘transfigure’ our heart to long always and only for Him thru our joys and inevitable sorrows, thru all our anxieties and hopes.
At this Eucharist, the Lord feeds our heart, mind, and spirit. May we, like Peter, James and John, truly desire to remain with the Lord who accompanies and strengthens us in our perpetual monastic Lenten journey, as St Benedict exhorts.
May we truly grow in our longing and communion with God all through Lent unto Easter with Christ.