March 17, 2019 — Second Sunday of Lent
In last week’s Gospel, we followed Jesus into the desert where He fasted and prayed. This week, He leads us up a mountain to witness His Transfiguration. Why both of these experiences?
He is preparing us to go with Him in a few short weeks to a hilltop, Golgatha, where He will lay down His life for our sake — and finally to take us to an empty cave where He triumphed over sin and death once and for all.
Jesus perfectly understands our humanity. He knows we need desert experiences — times of self-denial and testing — in order to arrive at mountain-top moments when we see and feel His glorious presence in our lives. The purpose of these two types of experiences is summed up in the description of the Apostles who were with Jesus at that mountain-top experience in today’s Gospel: “Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory….”
The reason for all of our fasting and prayer and almsgiving during lent is to be reawakened to all God has done for humanity and to all that He has done for each of us personally. It is all too easy to get lulled into complacency in our daily routines, to “sleepwalk” through life, getting up and getting ourselves and maybe kids out the door, going to work, returning home for dinner and dishes, meetings or sports activities, and finally flopping on the couch to watch TV until bedtime. While there is nothing inherently sinful in this routine, as Christian stewards we are called to so much more!
We are called to be fully awake and fully alert to the love of the Holy Trinity that dwells within us through our Baptism and surrounds us at every moment. How do we know this is true? We wouldn’t be alive at all but for the love of God that sustains us second by second! And we would not have eternal salvation and the perfect joy of heaven awaiting us if Jesus had not come and died for us.
The disciplines of lent are not meant to make us miserably “hangry” until Easter arrives, and we can eat chocolate in peace once again. The prayer and fasting and offering of ourselves to the poor are intended to shake us free from any apathy that has crept in to our lives so that we can see His glory in everyday moments.
When we intentionally set aside time for prayer, He will give us exactly the wisdom we need to face what comes later in the day. When we bring a little discomfort into our lives by the sacrifices we make, we realize just how weak and dependent we are on Him. When we reach out to those who have less materially, we realize the abundance of blessings we have. These are mountain-top moments. They bring us back to our senses and fill us with gratitude to God — which in turn spurs us on to give Him more of ourselves in the sharing of our time, talents, and treasure.
In this way, we train ourselves, or more precisely, we allow Him to train us to say “Yes” to His will and to offer our lives back to Him. In so doing we, too, become “transfigured.” This is what it means to live fully awake; this is a stewardship way of life and it is glorious indeed.