1st Readings: Genesis 12: 1-4
Abram was 75 when he heard God’s call to “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk.” He gathered his family and things and ‘hit the road.’ Much would happen after this: the great famine, the sharing of bread and wine with Melchizedek, the birth of his son, Ishmael from his slave woman, his pleading on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the tragedy of Lot and his wife. It would take 25 years more for the promised covenant even to take shape. He would be 100 when his wife’s name would change and still later when he would finally hold his son, Isaac. It is sort of an epic story of the one called God’s friend who would listen and trust, bargain and plead with this God. This is the great hike of hope that should inspire all of us as we tread this earthly road. We, too, need to trust in the ‘slow work of God.’ There is no need to rush it all. God’s love is a forever thing. (John Kavanaugh, http://liturgy.slu.edu )
“All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” What a beautiful thing to say about a person. What does that really mean? Who in your life brings you blessing? How do you bless others by what you do?
2nd Reading — 2 Timothy 1: 8b-10
This is one of the Pastoral Letters. It is concerned for the care of new communities and their leadership. They were probably written toward the end of the 1st century by a Pauline disciple who wished to ‘keep Paul alive’ by using Paul’s words and his life story. The reading is meant to encourage the reader to live and act in hope that comes from their faith in Jesus. Hope is not a passive thing. Augustine said that hope has two beautiful daughters: anger at things that are wrong and courage to make them right. Our hope does ultimately rely on God, but it also depends on our own honest efforts. Hope should draw us forward by its allure. Hope does not push us, it pulls. Vaclav Havel, philosopher and leader in the Czech republic, says that hope “is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” Let us listen to Jesus and find in that listening a faith and hope in the love of God that is forever with us. (Celebration, 2/99, 05)
What are some ‘hardships’ that we are called to bear to bring the good news (the gospel) of God’s love to others?
The Gospel – Matthew 17: 1-9
Mountaintops have often been symbols for peak spiritual experiences. Moses, the freeing lawgiver, and Elijah, the wonder-working prophet, met God on Mt. Sinai or Mt. Horeb (two names for the same mountain). At Sinai the Hebrew people had been wanderers who lived in tents. A tent became the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s sheltering presence in the wilderness. As they traveled, God went with them, a cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 40). The booths that Peter wants to build symbolize this sheltering presence of God. (Sunday by Sunday, 2/28/99 from http://www.goodgroundpress.com )
Is your experience of God’s presence this Lent more like a mountaintop or a journey through a valley – or desert – a cloud? What does it mean to you to have God’s favor rest on Jesus – on us? After the ‘vision’ of Jesus shining like the sun, they heard these words: “This is my beloved Son with who I am well pleased; listen to him.” These words were also spoken at Jesus’ baptism.
After this awe-inspiring experience, Jesus comes to them, touches them and says: “Rise, and do not be afraid.” Then they saw no one, “but Jesus alone.” As soon as they come down the mountain with Jesus, they are faced with a young boy in need of healing. This follows with another mention of the coming suffering. What do you make of this?
All of Lent is about either preparing for baptism or learning to live our baptism more fully. We are called to listen to Jesus – to journey with our God – to grow in holiness. All of this will mean a share in God’s glory – God’s own life, but it will also mean an embrace of suffering. God’s presence can help us with real life, but it does not deny it.
Remember, Peter, James and John not only experience the mountain top with Jesus and the glory of God’s presence-in-him, but they are also the ones who were called to be close to him in the garden of Gethsemane. Both the glory and the suffering are necessary parts of Jesus’ message of love salvation. Both messages are meant to be ours as we heed the voice of God and listen to Jesus. (Celebration, Feb. 2005)
Have you ever experienced a transfiguration? Have you ever seen a plain girl become a radiant beauty when she is seen through the eyes of love? Have you ever seen a timid, ordinary person become a ‘lion’, a hero, when someone was in need of help? Have you ever met someone who appeared to be rather ordinary only to discover how extraordinary they really are? Have you ever felt tired, discouraged, and alone only to quietly, but deeply begin to feel God’s presence and care? Afterwards, you can’t really doubt that it was from God, even though you may still not understand it. These experiences may help us to understand a little better the gospel experience, (J Foley, S.J. http://liturgy.slu.edu ).