March 12, 2017: Second Sunday of Lent - Pastor's Corner
Last week, we began our Lenten journey with Christ responding to his desert temptations through three dynamic actions: praying, fasting and giving. This week, Peter, James and John witness the powerful moment when Jesus’ transfiguration happens in all his glory. Just as this transformative moment gave those first followers of Christ encouragement on their journey, so too, it gives us a glimpse into the future Easter blessings which we hope to enjoy.
In the days following my ordination, I had the good fortune to travel to the Holy Land on pilgrimage. One of the most significant moments in the Holy Land was celebrating Mass on Mount Tabor, this same place of Christ’s Transfiguration. But in order to ascend the Mount, one has to traverse a staggering number of elevated switchbacks. The large tour buses which can clog the Holy Land Highways can only go so far up the Mount. Unable to navigate the steep turns, the luxury liners sit idly side by side at a base parking lot. If you want to reach the peak, you have to be nimble, traveling a bit lighter than the normal tourist. (In fact, the breakneck taxi ride to the top had the speed and thrills of an amusement park ride!) The summit is scaled only by those willing to relinquish unnecessary and burdensome baggage.
As we continue our Lenten journey, we are encouraged to put aside whatever baggage and extraneous creature comforts might keep us from ascending to our own place of transfiguration. This is the whole reason for the Lenten discipline of fasting. By giving up certain good things we enjoy, we open ourselves to receive the best: a renewed sense of God’s presence in our lives.
But the journey up the mount is challenging. We need encouragement to keep going. This week’s Gospel story of Christ’s transfiguration gives us that encouragement. Aware that He will soon travel to Jerusalem and be rejected and killed, Jesus reveals his divine nature to Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor, so that they will not lose heart when they witness His Passion. Jesus manifests His divinity in order to infuse His friends with the lifeblood of hope. It is as if he says to them: “No matter what happens in the coming days, no matter how bleak and dark life becomes, know that I am God, I will be victorious, and I can transform all things, making them new” (cf. Rev. 21:5).
This is Good News for us! After the initial spiritual surge of Ash Wednesday, the routine of reality returns. Often, the Lenten practices which we undertake can wane and even fall by the wayside. And so for us, Christ’s moment of transformation is a reminder of the dynamic power of celebrating Lent.
Last week, the Gospel reminded us that we can expect temptations to assail us at the beginning of our Lenten journey. This week, we are given encouragement that if we persevere in our journey, we will be transformed. The goods things we do, the ways in which we let go, the ways in which we lift up our minds and hearts in quiet prayer to God; these are the moments when change happens. For whenever we turn to the Lord with our hearts, He fills them with his life and grace. As we face the labors of Lent, whether it is endeavoring to give up chocolate or struggling to break an addiction or bad habit, we climb the mount with Jesus, we encounter the power of his glory and we pray: Transform me, Lord.
- Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P., Pastor