Sunday, March 12, 2017

2nd Sunday of Lent: All Things Point to Christ

Today's readings recall how Christ is the One the Jews waited for. He is the the completion of God's plan to save humanity.  They remind us of faith.

In the first reading from Genesis 12:1-4,

we read how God speaks to Abram and tells him to leave his past to a new land. He will become the 'Father' of a new nation. The first reading reminds us how it all started. God made a covenant with Abram, who would later be called Abraham. He would be the model of true faith for all and God would found a nation which he would be the father of. God calls Abram to leave all behind. This is not easy to do. Imagine listening to a disembodied voice telling you to leave your family's land and go to a strange land which the voice promises will be yours. Abram trusted God. He never questioned God's commands. This is how we must be. We must trust in God not caring what is before us because God will protect us and His will shall be done.

Lent is a period of meditation and renewal. This story is a great way to meditate on what it means to have faith. Faith means to trust God. God is the creator, God is good. Trusting God does not take anything away because we know He wants the best for us. However, due to Original Sin and our own Actual sin, we don't see things clearly in life. (1 Corinthians 13:12)  Faith is not easy to live by. In faith we fall into a Teleological Suspension of our human ethics laws as the philosopher Kierkegaard posits in his problems writings.  Faith becomes a paradox in itself. Nevertheless, it is by faith that we grow in God because we learn to trust Him.  In any relationship, trust is key. Without trust, we cannot have any kind of relationship.  Jesus Himself calls us to leave all things and follow Him. (Luke 18:22)

In response to the first reading we recite Psalm 33 which speaks of trust in God and goes in detail about how God cares of us.  We call on God to have mercy on us as He guides our path.  Again, the keyword 'trust' is mentioned in the first sentence "Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
"  We recall how God is trustworthy.  Like Abram, we are called to leave all behind and trust God because God is God and does not deceive.  

The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to Timothy and speaks of how God's grace brings us to holiness.  It starts out by telling us that our faith is not easy and is full of hardships (Matthew 24:13).  However, God gives us the strength to carry on (Philippians 4:13).  Again, this reading reminds us of trusting God.  God has everything under control despite our lives getting hectic at times, especially when we get closer to God.  It is God's grace that keeps us going, not our own.  

Lastly, the Gospel is the story of the Transfiguration, where Christ takes Peter, James and John to a mountain top and He visibly transforms into a glorious being glowing in God's glory.  Moses and Elijah, two pillars of the Jewish faith appear beside Christ representing Israel, the law and the prophets while validating that Christ is the one they were preparing the Hebrews for.  This transformation is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection where Christ will appear in a glorious form after He rises from the dead.  Again, the Gospel shows how Peter, James and John trusted Christ and followed Him.  They were the first to be called and were His closest disciples.

We as followers of Christ must reflect on this during Lent and throughout the year. We must analyze where our faith lies.
  • We must ask ourselves how much do we trust God?  
  • Are we willing to give up everything for God? 
  • Are we willing to go wherever God calls us to, even if it brings us pain and suffering?  
This is why we do penance, abstain from meat, and fast. This is why we give up something for Lent and offer more so we can discipline ourselves. Detachment is the key to getting closer to God. St. Francis of Assisi and other saints have shown us that only in casting away our worries, our material desires do we grow closer to God.  God afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Our trials make sense only in faith.  Let us continue to grow in faith, trust God and focus on His Son Jesus who is the only One we need.  

Here are the readings:

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Reflections from holy writers:

Indeed, Jesus himself shone as the sun, indicating that he is the light which illuminates every one who comes into this world. And this is the sun to the eyes of the flesh, that is the sun to the eyes of the heart. His garments are a type of his church. For garments, unless held up by the one having donned them, fall.
Paul was like the lowest hem of these garments. For he himself says, "For I am the least of the apostles," and in another passage, "I am the last of the apostles."
On a garment, the hem is the last thing and the least. Just as that woman who touched the Lord's hem was made well, so the Church which came out of the Gentiles was saved by means of Paul's preaching.
— St. Augustine
(354 - 430)

Source: "Sermon 78.2," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 14-28, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 54.

I think that God, wishing to dissuade Peter from making three tabernacles, under which so far as it depended on his choice he was going to dwell, shows him a better tabernacle, so to speak, and far superior: the cloud.
It is the function of a tabernacle to give shade to one who is in it and to shelter him, and the bright cloud overshadowed them. So God made, as it were, a more divine tabernacle, inasmuch as it was bright, that it might be to them a pattern of the resurrection to come. For the shining cloud gives shade to the righteous and at the same time protects them, gives them light and illuminates them.
What would the shining cloud that gives shade to the righteous be? Is it perhaps the Father's power, from which comes the Father's voice saying that this is his Son in whom he is well pleased, urging those that are shaded by it to listen to him and to no one else? He speaks—just as of old so also for all times—through those whom he wishes. Perhaps the shining cloud is the Holy Spirit, giving shade to the righteous and announcing the words of God at work within it and saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." I would even venture to say that the shining cloud is our Savior.
Origen(185 - 254)

Source: "Commentary on Matthew 12.42," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 14-28, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 55.

For the greater the things said about him, the harder it was for the many at that time to accept them. And the offense of the cross increased all the more thereby. Therefore he told them to be silent about the transfiguration. He again reminded them of the Passion, and he almost mentioned the reason why he told them to be silent. For he did not command them never to tell anyone but "[to wait] until he is raised from the dead." Saying nothing about the painful part, he told them only of the good.
What then? Were they not going to be offended after this? Not at all. For the silence that was being demanded was only for the time before the crucifixion. After this they were thought better prepared to receive the Spirit. They had the voice of the miracles advocating for them, and everything that they said from then on was easier to receive. For the course of events announced his power more clearly than a trumpet, and no stumbling block interrupted these events.
— St. John Chrysostom
(344 - 407)

Source: "The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 56.6," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 14-28, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 57.

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