In today’s Mass, we glimpse something of the glory of God when Christ was Transfigured in the presence of his disciples. Our Lord invites us to be one with him, to leave our sins behind and to be transformed by his love. First of all we must ask him to give us a spirit of true repentance.
I would imagine that for most people who sit down and have a little think about Lent, the first thing that springs to mind for many of them are the Lenten penitential practices. The Day of Fast and Abstinence on Ash Wednesday, the Imposition of Ashes, not eating meat on Friday, making time to go to the Stations of the Cross and daily Mass whenever possible, setting extra time aside for helping the poor and many other practices I’m sure you have all considered. It’s important though, that we remember why we do all these things, because as we discovered last Sunday, meaningless actions – actions performed for the wrong reasons or with the wrong intention – are absolutely worthless in God’s eyes. Let me give you a frivolous example: a person might abstain from meat on Friday and therefore not go to the KFC restaurant for their usual Friday chicken dinner; but that same person may go the fish restaurant and order lobster with all the trimmings. Now, if any of you wish to do penance next Friday by eating lobster please feel free to invite me along – I’ll gladly suffer with you. Just doing things like abstaining from going to the KFC or McDonalds doesn’t make any sense at all. As we discovered last week, we have to put some meaning behind our actions. We have to remember that Lent is that time of year when we put a little more effort into growing in holiness. And what we choose to give up, we give up as a reminder of Our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection. What we do, we do as a positive action in order to help us grow in holiness. We don’t fast just for the sake of it, or to lose a few calories, or to save money at Tesco. Lent is a time for us to concentrate on who we are and to revitalize our Christian lifestyle. How do I use this time to become a better Catholic?
The readings for the liturgy today help guide us in recognizing who and what we are. They touch on the vitality of our living past. They also present the hope of our future, the hope that we are touched with every day; and they help us to understand the road of the present, the journey that we travel with Our Lord himself. The journey to the Cross.
The brief first reading presents the call of Abraham. When God called Abraham to leave his homeland he wanted him to establish a new people, a new nation under God. This people would be known as the chosen people, the people from whom the Saviour of the world would come. Abraham responded to God’s call out of complete reverence for the Creator who had touched his life. He would grow in faith, trusting in God to make him the Father of Faith even though he was well on in years and his wife well beyond childbearing; and even though God would further test his faith by seeing if he would sacrifice his only son Isaac. Because he was a man of faith, Abraham established a people of faith. Faith in God solves problems in ways that people cannot come to themselves. And so, the lesson for us today is that faith in God leads people into mystery, it leads us into the mystical wonders of God himself. Now although Abraham is in our distant past, he is more than just a memory. He led us to a faith that is living and real. Abraham’s openness to God formed us into the people of faith, the people of mystery, the people of a mystical present.
It’s only through our acceptance of this mystery that we can walk with Christ from the Mountain of the Transfiguration to Mount Calvary, and eventually to the Mountain of the Ascension. Peter, James and John wanted to tell everyone about the wonders they had experienced when Our Lord was transfigured, but first they had to experience his death and resurrection. It wasn’t enough for them, or for us, to simply witness his death and resurrection, they and we have to experience these saving mysteries for ourselves. We have to walk with Christ on the journey of sacrificial love. We too have to walk the Way of the Cross. We have to keep giving of ourselves until there is no more to give. We have to die with Christ so that we can live with Him.
Lent is the time when we focus in on our journey with God. Lent is the time when we do our best to resist selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, and anything else that we hoard as though the emptiness of our selfishness can fill us. The living present of Lent is no less than the sacrificial journey of Our Lord himself. And yes, it is difficult being a Christian in a world that glorifies selfishness, but our sacrifices give us the joy of experiencing Christ in our lives. Despite what people may say, Lent is a joyful season. Lent is the time when we reinforce and perhaps even restore meaning in our lives. For it is only the Life of Christ that gives our lives meaning.
As people with a living past and a present of meaning we look forward to the future the Lord gave us a glimpse of on the Mount of Transfiguration. We, like those disciples, will share his glory. His glory will be our glory. We will be transfigured with him. The mysteries and the wonders of the future are beyond our comprehension right now, but they do exist, and they are waiting for us.
Lent is the time for us to grow in the vision of Christ’s glory that he has offered us through the gift of faith. We grow in this vision by continuing the transformation which began at our baptism. We are God’s people, and God calls us to be holy. We are different than all those people who have no place for God in their lives. We are transformed, we are transfigured; we are a new creation, we are the people God has made his own.
God’s word is our living heritage, our roots. His glory is our vision and our hope. His present is our joy as we join him in the journey of meaning, the journey of sacrificial love, the Way of The Cross that is the Christian life.