16Mar 16th March. Second Sunday of Lent

 

16th March. Second Sunday of Lent

First Reading: Genesis 12:1-4

(Abraham shows complete obedience to God, prepared even to sacrifice his treasured son, if it God’s will.)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Second Reading: 2 Timothy 1:8-10

(Suffering on behalf of the gospel will be well repaid by our Saviour Jesus Christ.)

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

(Jesus transfigured on Mount Tabor. This was to sustain the apostles’ faith in him during his passion and death.)

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Pilgrim’s Progress: Life as Journey

The years of our life pass smoothly by, each one seeming shorter than the last. We are on a journey from youth to age, from the cradle to the grave. In his dream-like poem, The Lotus Eaters, Alfred Tennyson describes a sense of weary resignation, one option we might take, in face of the passing years:

“Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.”

Through eyes of faith, the passing of the years looks somewhat different. We believe our journey is going somewhere: instead of simply terminating with death (full stop, finis), we will emerge into the life of heaven (welcome, transition into God’s presence.) We are pilgrims, like Abraham, moving toward the land of promise. Like St Paul, we try to deal with the problems and setbacks along the way, with the help of the Lord. And in the end, if we are faithful, we will share the total joy of joining Christ in glory, as the reward of life’s pilgrimage.

Pilgrim’s Progress: In our many journeys today (the age of mobility) we tend to move around a lot, without showing much signs of spiritual progress; indeed, in that respect we often appear to be going backwards. Our goals and desires are short-term, narrow, superficial. Moved by a restless urge for money, for celebrity, novelty, success and pleasure, we go round in rapid circles. But the pilgrims’ sights are set on a higher destination, and like Martin Luther King they can say: “I have a dream…” However far-off and hard to reach this dream may be, it is worth more than all the short-term desires we follow. Each step on the journey takes on meaning in light of the goal God sets before us.

A personal, inward journey: Our whole life can be made a pilgrimage towards God. Just as he called Abraham, so he calls each of us to be his own. His call to us is quiet but insistent. Not exactly in the form of: “leave your country and your father’s house,” but “leave your old ways, the pride and selfishness, the hardness of heart, the angry temper, the envy and the falsehood. And go to the land I shall show…” The direction of our pilgrimage is not geographical but moral: “Go towards charity, purity, sharing in truth and prayer and good-will. Go in the way of the gospel. Go to heaven.’

Meaningful Living: Having God’s command, and submitting entirely to it, made Abraham the first great pilgrim. Henceforth all his activity took on the value of obedience to God; he was on the high road towards Yahweh, the living God. The same spirit would give the deepest meaning to our lives too. Far from being absurd or useless, the pilgrim’s efforts to follow the gospel of his Master are full of meaning. Progress along this way is the real formula for peace of mind. Augustine said it profoundly: “You have made us for Yourself, 0 Lord; and our hearts can never be at rest, until they rest in You.”