Second Sunday of Lent, March 8
Mark 9: 2-10
This Second Sunday of Lent could be called Transfiguration Sunday as well as not. The Gospel story of the Transfiguration appears on this Sunday in all three Liturgical cycles. Today we have St. Mark’s version.
Christian Theology uses the phrase “hypostatic union” to describe the presence of both the human and divine natures being joined to the one divine person in Jesus. This phrase was used by the Council of Chalcedon (451) which stated that the two natures (human and divine) are united in the one person (Greek: hypostasis = existence or person) of Christ. We see evidence of the presence of the two natures in the different happenings described in the Scriptures. For example, when Jesus is thirsty or hungry, this is evidence of the human nature. Christ’s eternal presence and equality with the Father is evidence of the divine nature. And sometimes there is evidence of a mixture of the two, e.g., healing by the power of the human touch. Today’s story of the Transfiguration is perhaps the clearest statement of his divinity outside of the Resurrection. There is really nothing unusual about this Transfiguration as far as Jesus is concerned, with his face shining like the sun and his clothes bright as light itself. Jesus, as we just inferred, was always divine, always the Second Person of the Trinity.
This Gospel is good news for us in that we are also able to participate in this transfiguration, but in a more limited way. We can be transformed and changed from a sinful people into a virtuous people. Most of us bounce back and forth between the human and the divine (a gift of God for our human nature), between the sinner and the saint. Remember that human beings are not either/or but rather both/and. We are not either saints or sinners, we are bothsaints and sinners.
The Transfiguration narrated in this Sunday’s Gospel really is good news for us in a couple of ways. First, it reminds us that Jesus is both human and divine in the one divine person; it reminds us that Jesus is God. And secondly, it shows us we don’t have to be what we really don’t want to be. I can say yes or no to Jesus’ offer of the way, truth and life. I can say yes or no to change in my life. All of us can see instances in our lives where we said yes to God and where we said no. For some twenty years I chose to say yes to the false god of alcohol in my life and no to God. During that time I was selfish, an extremist, I didn’t grow a bit, and I certainly wasn’t a very holy person. My life was all about me. Then, through the grace of God and the help of many other people, the transformation came. I was given, through no fault of my own, the grace of sobriety, and I changed. Now I am not selfish to the extreme any more, I have grown a lot in the past 35 years, and I am becoming a whole, complete, holy person. Life now is all about God and neighbor.
This Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent offers all of us the opportunity to reflect on our own transfigurations, the many changes we have said yes to in our lives with the help of God’s grace. I can still say yes or no to God. I am still both/and. But personally I like life much better when I am saying yes to God.
Monday of the Second Week of Lent, March 9
Luke 6: 36-38
The Gospel for this second Monday of Lent gives us an opportunity to reflect on making the transfiguration we spoke of yesterday, “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
How, pray tell, can I continue to judge the people around me when one look tells me I am just as weak and sinful as they are? Judging is the work of God, according to the Scriptures. It is, therefore, only my false pride that enables me to judge another person. When I judge, I am playing God. There is an old cliché that tells me: Live and let live. In other words, mind your own business and not that of others. This is good advice for us to remember during this season of Lent. The same holds true about condemning other people. And how can I expect God to forgive me my many transgressions and faults if I am resentful and unforgiving toward those who have hurt me or whom I see offending God’s way?
Lent offers me the opportunity to check out this whole area of judging, condemning and being unforgiving people. All of these are frequent human faults. Do I find myself guilty of any of them right now?
Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent, March 10
Mt. 23: 1-12
Our Gospel chosen to be read on this Second Tuesday of Lent warns us about being phony, of pretending to be more than we are, pretending to be better than we really are, of thinking we are better than anyone else. Jesus tells us, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” When we are phony we cannot see beyond ourselves. The greatest among you, Jesus says, is the one who serves others. How can I serve others if all I can see is myself and my own needs and wants.
Humility is true self-knowledge. Truly, I am limited. I am powerless over many things. I am not God. God, for his part, has given all of us gifts and talents to enable us to serve others who do not have the same gifts and talents. And he has given them gifts we don’t have to help them serve us. Round and round it goes.
It is when I use what God has given me to serve others that I am exalted, happy, joyful and at peace with God and the world. When else does this happen? Lord, help me to put the needs and wants of others before my own.
Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent, March 11
Mt. 20: 17-28
The Gospel chosen for today’s Liturgy is also found, with slight variations, in the Gospel of Mark 10: 35-45. The disciples were with Jesus practically all the time, yet it is quite obvious that they have failed to pick up the truth that what makes for greatness in Jesus’ Kingdom is not lordly power but humble service. Without being told in so many words, the disciples should have come to this truth just from watching Jesus and being with him. Jesus’ ministry of service is on every page of the Gospels and reaches its highest point when he gives his life for the deliverance of the human race from sin.
I have stated many times in these homilies that it is my belief that Jesus’ greatest desire and message for all of us is that we serve one another. In my mind this is the reason why God has given us all individual and unique gifts and talents – to help others where they are lacking gifts and talents as they in turn will use theirs to help me where I am lacking. Lent is a good time to examine this obligation of serving others in our own lives.
Who am I serving today, now? Who else can benefit from my services that I am not serving right now?
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent, March 12
Luke 16: 19-31
The closing thought in yesterday’s homily was: Who else can benefit from my services that I am not now serving? And I believe this thought can be a lead-in to applying the story told in today’s Gospel to our own lives. The rich man in today’s story who is ignoring the poor beggar, Lazarus, really didn’t do anything wrong at all to get him into the predicament he’s in. It is what he didn’t do that got him in trouble when he died and was tormented by the flames while Lazarus was merrily enjoying the good life after he died. The rich man, sometimes called Divis (which means “rich man” in Latin), missed an opportunity to serve Lazarus. The opportunity was there day after day, but Divis failed to see it and act on it. I remember reading someplace or other a little phrase about hell being full of people who missed opportunities to do good. This fits our Gospel story for today.
Let’s take a moment or two to look at our goings and comings for the past couple of days – at school, church, work, at home. Have I missed any opportunities to be helpful to others, to serve them? And let us pray today that God will help us be more aware of the needs of people we meet every day. Help me to listen to them and try not to miss any opportunities to be of help to them.
Friday of the Second Week of Lent, March 13
Genesis 37 – Mt. 21: 33-43, 45-46
Today’s Scripture readings for this Second Friday of Lent both deal with rejections that in the long run turned out well for all. In these readings we see God’s will materializing despite our efforts to the contrary.
In the first reading from the Book of Genesis we find the beautiful story of Joseph, the Master Dreamer, who is abandoned by his brothers and left to die so their father will love them more. Joseph, however, does not die in the cistern, but is rescued and goes on to lead his people, including his brothers, to Egypt and form them into a nation.
The Gospel reading for today tells the parable of the evil tenants who abused and killed the owner’s servants and eventually even killed the owner’s son when he came to get the owner’s share of the harvest from the vineyard. We see clearly here the parallel of the Prophets sent by God to tell the people to repent being abused and killed by the people. Eventually they even killed his Son Jesus who came to them. Talk about missed opportunities!!
O God, it is evident that you save your people in spite of themselves and we thank you for your marvelous and wonderful deeds.
Saturday of the Second Week in Lent, March 14
Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
The fact that God will save us all in spite of ourselves becomes evident again today in the Gospel parable of the Lost Son. This is one of my favorite parables in all the Scriptures because I can so readily identify with the Lost or Prodigal Son. I was determined, it seemed, to run away from God, to do my own thing, to take all that he had given to me and waste it. But God had other plans for me.
This parable of the Lost Son is a parable of love and forgiveness. We see the Father’s love for his son in his waiting for the son to return. He obviously went every day to a hill on his property where he could see a long way off and waited to see his son coming. And when that wonderful time really happened, when he saw him coming on the horizon, he didn’t just sit and wait for the son to get to him. He ran to meet the son! And when they met the father threw his arms around his son’s neck and hugged and kissed him. Then he ordered a servant to bring a robe, sandals and a ring and put them on the son. In so doing he gave the son back his son-ship, his place in the family as it was before he ran off to waste his inheritance. And so it is with all of us who in any way go off on our own and leave the Father.
O God, you did the same for me when I returned from my alcoholic adventures. I will never cease being grateful to you for your love and forgiveness. Take a moment to reflect on God’s love and forgiveness for you.