Second 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 reached a sense of their ethnic and personal identities. He is regarded as the father of the Hebrew people.
Scholars believe Abraham actually lived at one time. He is not a myth.
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.
Eighty 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 promised divine protection to all of Abraham’s descendants.
St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans furnishes the second reading. It was written amid the context surrounding all of the Pauline letters.
Although Christians were increasing in number in the last quarter of the first century A.D., they still, at the time, formed only a tiny minority in the population of the Roman Empire. Because of their total commitment to the Gospel of love, they seemed foolish.
Moreover, they were viewed as a threat to the very stability of the empire. By rejecting outright much of the Roman culture, its basic philosophy and its pagan religion, they were regarded as enemies of the state.
Obviously, many Christians were uneasy. Paul reassured them. He called them to faithfulness regardless of the “hardships,” indeed terrors, that easily, even likely, might come their way.
He said that their knowledge of God was their advantage and privilege. God would save them. Christ had defeated death. In the Lord they would prevail over every adversary.
A reading from the Gospel of Matthew is the third lesson. It tells the story of the Transfiguration, a story also found in the other Synoptic Gospels.
In the Transfiguration, the Lord’s identity as Son of God was magnificently displayed. Rich symbols abound, each with unmistakable roots in the Old Testament. Jesus stands atop a high mountain. He is as bright as the sun. God’s voice sounds from the sky above. Each circumstance makes clear the fact of Christ’s divine identity.
The lesson is that God shares with humans the very essence of the Holy Trinity, so that we all may know Him.
This weekend, we observe the Second Sunday of Lent. Lent is well underway, now over two weeks along.
Lent is meaningless unless it includes our total and free dedication to forming ourselves according to the image of Jesus, as Paul urged the Roman Christians. It requires absolute faith, trust, commitment, serious thought and deliberate action, in prayer, penance and in living each day.
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 modern life is challenging, even daunting. Times are not good for everyone. As were the ancient Roman Christians, we easily may be troubled. Fears, doubts and our own smugness confound our ability to see things clearly and to act in what truly is our best interests.
The Transfiguration consoles us by telling us that Christ will sustain us. Whatever confronts us on earth, we have nothing to fear.
God is with us in Jesus, the eternal Son of God. God’s love is real, reaching out to us, with reward and strength.
Although almighty, Jesus overwhelms no one. We freely must respond, especially when life is difficult. Lent is the process by which individually and voluntarily we accept the Lord and look ahead, beyond the problems, worries and sorrows.
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