THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT – C – February 21, 2016

A reading from the Book of Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18

A reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 3:17-4:1

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 9:28b-36

 

I remember a night many, many years ago.  This young boy sat in the dormer window of his bedroom and gazed into the starry heavens.  Did he pray?  Certainly he wondered about God.  He thought about Jesus and wondered what the Lord wanted him to do.  His child’s mind sought reassurance, a view into the future that would make decision less risky.  As all children do, he wanted to know that everything would work out, that the dreams would be realized and he would be save.

I remember asking for a sign.  Please give me a sign so that I will know what it is you want me to do.  Hubris?  From this vantage point it would seem so.  But not as I remember that moment.  There was too much pleading and too many tears for hubris.  Naiveté?  I close my eyes and that moment is etched in my mind clearly and indelibly.  One word escaped my lips as I whispered into the night.  Please!  In that moment a bright ball of light arced through the sky over me, brilliant, brief and beautiful.  And all I could do was gasp and wonder what it was.  A sign?

Signs, omens?  The stuff of seers needing sages to interpret.  But I have clung to that moment and returned to it in challenging times and have found it in reassurance.  Abram had lived for many years in fidelity to God, clinging to the promise that he would be the father of innumerable children down through the ages.  But years had gone by since he first heard the promise and now he is an old man and childless.  So God gave him the sign of the flaming torch and the fireball passing between the lavish sacrifice Abram had prepared in keeping with God’s instructions.  When Abram saw the fire and the smoke his faith was restored; he remembered the promise and continued on his journey believing the promise would be fulfilled.

I had no history that night.  I had only the memory of my first encounter with Christ in the Waters.  Not many weeks intervened between the day of my Baptism and that star-filled night.  As an eight-year-old, I had just begun my journey.

To begin a journey of faith is one thing.  To persevere on it is another.  That is what Paul agonizes about in the second reading from his letter to the Philippians.  Those had taught and brought to Baptism and now turning away from the purity of Paul’s instruction and want to reintroduce elements from their Jewish tradition.  Paul pleads with them to return to the new way as he had taught them and find their hope in Christ alone.

That is the reason that the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent is always an account of the Transfiguration.  The favored trio, Peter, James, and John, are at the start of a journey that is unprecedented.  They will be going to Jerusalem with Jesus, where Jesus will be rejected, be condemned, and will suffer in ignominy and die.  In that moment on the mountaintop their heads swam in what seemed to be an affirmation of what they believed about Jesus, that he is the Christ, the anointed of God, the one who would change history forever.  They saw the power and the majesty.  They saw Jesus speak with Moses and Elijah.  Surely, the new Exodus opened before them.  Would they remember the Mountain when they came to the other hill outside Jerusalem and watched from a distance to see how it all would end?

Do we need this epiphany moment recalled as we begin our Lenten journey?  Or, is this meant for those among us we pray for, those elect heading for the Font for their dying moment and rebirth in Christ?  Do all of us need the telling because no faith journey is without hazard?  Each disciple walks with Jesus, each on his/her own winding and twisting path.  Each one faces unexpected challenges to faith, moments that could elicit doubt, and events that will threaten to stifle and break the believing heart.

I remember sitting in a hospital room with a young couple.  The mother sat in a rocking chair and cradled the dead infant in her arms.  She rocked and hummed a lullaby.  The father knelt and placed his head in her lap.  Tears streaked both faces.  Time passed.  A moment?  An hour?  Time froze.  Then she whispered, Jesus knows.  Jesus cares.  Our hope is in him.  What was she remembering?  An Easter past?

Lord Jesus, help us to remember.

Sincerely,

Didymus

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