REFLECTION ON THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
The Scripture readings from this reflection: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psam 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36
We seminarians were gathered in the chapel for Mass. The reading was the same as today’s first reading from Genesis, where God made a covenant with our father in faith Abram (soon to be renamed Abraham). The lector began. Strange as it may seem, cutting animals in half and walking between them was how the people of that time made covenants.
Before I go further, let me note that the translation from the New American Bible that was used then differs from our current New American Bible Revised wording. Today’s version speaks of a “smoking fire pot and a flaming torch” passing between the pieces to mark the covenant. Back then it read, “a smoking brazier and a flaming torch.” When our lector got to that point, he said it was a “smoking brassiere.” We did everything we could do to preserve at least SOME liturgical dignity. No one laughed out loud, but bodies were shaking all over the place as we contained ourselves as best we could.
In the Gospel today, the Transfiguration scene, at least in part, reminds of that covenant as Moses and Elijah appear in conversation with Jesus, the fulfillment of that covenant. God’s voice then proclaims Jesus as his Son and urges all to listen to him.
When the experience concludes, St. Peter is all about wanting to stay there. He is moved by the presence of Jesus and wants it to last. But Jesus leads Peter, James, and John back down the mountain. As a sidebar, I would note that it truly IS a mountain, rising far above the terrain. Mount Tabor is so steep, the winding road to get to the top is miles long!
Ah, how we would like to have such a peak experience, right? Or, if we have had one or more, making those experiences last. But, that’s not how it goes.
What we CAN do is open ourselves to realize that God is ALWAYS with us. Jesus came to bring us to salvation and to help us to remember that it is not we who go to Him, HE COMES TO US AND IS ALWAYS WITH US.
All too often we look for God somewhere other than parking ourselves and opening our hearts to his presence. We look all over for God, when St. John of the Cross tells us that God is waiting for us to let him in! God wants to be one with us … HE’S the one who is pressing for us to make an opening—with faith and hope and love—and to allow him to move into us.
According to St. John, we may not even feel his presence/union, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is there. Opening our minds and hearts in faith permits God’s grace to lead and guide us. His presence will allow us to realize peace no matter what the turmoil—a taste of the eternal peace that is to come as a result of faith, hope, and love.
Jesus says he is always with us until the end of time. And then some!
Fr. John Harth is a retired priest of the diocese. He lives in Cape Girardeau