February 25, 2018 — Second Sunday of Lent
The absolute first verse of our First Reading from the Book of Genesis is, “God put Abraham to the test.” Is that not what Lent is all about for each of us? We are being “put to the test.” Although we are less than two weeks into our Lenten journey, how are we doing? Have we even made an effort to let the Lord know that we are being tested? Have we set goals? What have we done to change the way we live?
One of the great gifts we have received, and it is also a challenge, is that God has granted us “free will.” That means we choose the direction we are going to go; this is a time when we should reflect on what we have and what we need to change. Someone once said, “Lent is a time for spiritual ‘spring cleaning’.” What are the habits we need to eliminate from our lives? What are the behavioral patterns that make us less than what a Christian should do? That is what we need to address.
The First Reading from the Book of Genesis speaks of, as mentioned, the test to which Abraham was placed. It may seem dramatic and excessive to us, but the truth is that it involves trust in God. That total trust is tough for us most of the time. Yet, as we see in the First Reading, Abraham passes it with room to spare. God is not evil or vindictive, but He is interested in how we use our “free will” and how we respond to the challenges offered us. This time, Lent, is the time for us to step up and to respond as Abraham did. God says to Abraham, “I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” It was God’s willingness to give to us His beloved Son that has provided us with salvation.
In his letter to the Romans, our Second Reading, St Paul tells us, “If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?” God’s gift to us in His Son Jesus Christ might be considered the ultimate gift. Having received that, how can we think that the Lord will not give us other gifts, smaller gifts?
Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. It is this gift, this understanding, which allows us to trust God to the same extent that Abraham did. Yet, is this part of what we see as our Lenten journey and effort? Do we truly incorporate God’s love for us into everything we do, and everything we try to do? We can make all the lists and goals we wish during this Lenten period, but at the base of it all has to be trust in God and a willingness to adjust our lives to pursue holiness.
The Gospel recounts the Transfiguration, that moment when the Lord revealed to us just a glimpse of what Heaven is all about. Of course, we cannot even completely conceive of that (nor could Peter, James, and John). Nevertheless, that is what is very much at the basis of what our efforts and concentration should be during this Lenten season. We must take care not to think of the transfiguration as being a bright light on Jesus. This is not a light coming to Jesus from the outside; it involves a change from the inside. The change, although it may appear to be on the outside, really comes from the inside.
That is what we need to be striving for in our faith lives, and particularly during this Lent. We need to strive to change from within. That is what really allows us to be the disciples we need to be, and to experience the conversion (change) we need to undergo.