2nd Sunday in Lent
This weekend’s first reading, from the Book of Genesis, is about Abraham, a very important figure in the process by which Jews reach a sense of their ethnic and personal identities, as he is regarded as the father of the Hebrew people.
Genetic links between Jews of any age and Abraham are not the only consideration. The ancient Jewish faith is another. Abraham is seen as the great example of faith in God and of obedience to God.
Because of his faith, Christians, and even Muslims, also revere Abraham. Scholars believe that Abraham actually lived at one time. He is not a myth.
Seventy years ago, Pope Pius XI said that Christians fall within the category of children of Abraham, since Christians descend from him as a spiritual father, because of his faith.
In this reading, God promises divine protection to all of Abraham’s descendants.
St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans furnishes the second reading. It was written amid a context similar to the circumstances surrounding each of the other Pauline letters.
While Christians certainly were increasing in number in the last quarter of the first century A.D., they still at this time formed only a tiny minority in the population of the Roman Empire, and, because of their total commitment to the Gospel of love, seemed either foolish or threatening to the great majority of their contemporaries.
Critically, rejecting the Roman pagan religion, they soon were regarded as enemies of the state.
Amid all this, many Christians surely were uneasy. Paul reassured them. In this reading, he called them to faithfulness regardless of the “hardships” that easily, even likely, would come their way.
He said that their knowledge of God was their advantage, and privilege. God would save them. Christ had defeated death, and in the Lord they would prevail over every adversary.
A reading from the Gospel of Mark is the third lesson. It tells the story of the Transfiguration, a story found in the other Synoptics as well.
In the Transfiguration, the Lord’s identity as Son of God was magnificently displayed. Rich symbols abound. Each has unmistakable roots in the Old Testament. Jesus is atop a high mountain, as bright as the sun. God’s voice sounds from above. Each makes clear the fact of Christ’s divine identity.
The further lesson is that God shares with humans the very essence of being within the Holy Trinity, so that we all may know God.
Lent will be meaningless unless it includes a total and free dedication to molding ourselves into the image of Jesus, as Paul urged the Roman Christians. It requires absolute faith, trust and commitment.
We express this sincere dedication in prayer and penance.
Is it worth it? Through the words of Paul, the Church reminds us of life amid hardships. Outright persecution does not beset Christians in America, but American disciples of the Lord face their obstacles. Fears, doubts and our own smugness confound our ability to see things clearly and to act in what truly is our best interest.
In these readings from Genesis and Matthew, the Church details the message of Romans, that Christ sustains us. Regardless of everything and anything, we have nothing to fear.
God’s care for us, in Christ, is the product of God’s love for us. The wondrous revelation to the Apostles of the Lord’s divinity, seen in the Transfiguration, tells us of God’s love.
God is with us in Jesus, the eternal Son of God.
Although almighty, however, Jesus overwhelms no one. We freely must respond. Lent is the process by which individually and voluntarily we intensify our response to the Lord.
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