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  • Writer's pictureFather Puddleglum

2nd Sunday of Lent - A

Sometimes when I’m having a rough day I like to look at old pictures of my family and friends. They remind me of times when I wasn’t so melancholy and things were better. That usually does the trick. These memories bring comfort in times when I am experiencing distress. I am sure you can all relate. It’s important to have these moments to hold onto when you go through tough times. They remind you that your difficult circumstances will pass.

This week’s Gospel passage is quite the jump from last week when we saw Jesus struggling with temptation in the desert. He was victorious over Satan and conquered temptation by His human will. We saw the stark humanity of Jesus. Like us He was tempted to sin although He remained free from sin. Today instead of an emphasis on the humanity of Jesus, we are given a display of His divinity. We see His glory revealed to Peter, James, and John on top of Mount Tabor. It is no accident that the Church arranges the readings for us in this manner. We begin Lent with Jesus down in the desert. We then see Him up on top of Mount Tabor. He must then go down Tabor only to climb the hill of Calvary. The life of Jesus is full of ups and downs.

In Lent we struggle and wrestle with our own brokenness and our attachments to sin. We go through our own ups and downs. Like Jesus in the desert we take forty days to do serious battle with temptation and confront our weaknesses. And having been at for almost two weeks we begin to feel the heaviness of our burdens. We have probably faltered here and there with our Lenten resolutions although we probably had a strong start. But now we notice the strength of our attachments. The weakness of our wills and our tendency to acquiesce to temptation is laid bare before our eyes. Perhaps we grow weary and heavy of heart. Perhaps we are tempted to discouragement.

Six days before the Transfiguration Jesus made the first prediction of His passion and death. The plan was made known to His apostles. He must suffer and die. Furthermore, Jesus says that if they want to follow Him they too must take up their crosses and suffer. You can imagine the anguish this would have caused in the hearts of His followers. They were probably weary and heavy of heart. Jesus must climb Mount Calvary to die. But before that He climbs Mount Tabor and reveals His Glory. He shows what lies beyond Calvary which is His glorious Resurrection. Peter, James, and John are given a taste of Heaven when we will behold the glorious face of God. Jesus is giving His apostles something to hold onto when He must undergo His passion. When they are tempted to lose hope they can recall this moment when Jesus manifested His power and divinity. The Transfiguration was a foretaste of the power and glory of God that lay beyond the cross. It was a grace meant to shine in the dark that would envelope the apostles during and after the crucifixion. Much like our photos and memories of better times give us comfort, the Transfiguration would remind the apostles that the cross does not end with death but with resurrection.

I am sure that most if not all of you have had moments in your life where you felt like God was very close. You have probably had a Mount Tabor experience. You had no doubt in your mind that God was present. Yes, we believe that one day God will fully reveal Himself to us when the veil is torn away and we see Him face to face. But He still reveals Himself to us now in this world. “Christianity is not a religion of the continual postponement of joy and delight, as some would like to caricature the Christian virtue of hope. The Transfiguration is the experience of the fullness of divine Presence … and glory now, in our very midst, in this world of passingness and disappointment” (Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word volume II by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, 551). If we follow Jesus, we will have our own Mount Tabor experiences. We will have our ups. We should remember these experiences when we are feeling down or distant from God. One can feel distant when there is a dryness in prayer. It just doesn’t feel like God is there. One can feel distant from God when there is a struggle with temptation and sin. There are ups and downs in our life and in our relationship with God. But we need to remember Tabor when we are on Calvary.

As we venture on this Lenten season, as we continue to wrestle with our own limitations and setbacks, we should nurture two dispositions in our hearts: trust and anticipation.

The event of the Transfiguration did not last forever. Peter, James, and John had to come down from Mount Tabor. Calvary still lay ahead. Therefore, the apostles were called to trust in the Lord, having confidence that He was in control. This is the same trust to which Abraham was called. He was called to leave his homeland and promised the blessing of many descendants. Abraham did not understand how the Lord would accomplish or fulfill His promises. But Abraham trusted in the Lord and was blessed immensely. The Lord kept His promises. The apostles were given the light of Tabor to hold onto when they went through the darkness of Calvary. Tabor was to be their reassurance and the foundation of their trust. In those moments when we are struggling we ought to call to mind those times and experiences of grace in our lives. We should use them to renew our trust and confidence that the Lord makes good on His promises, that He has our best interests in mind. Strive to trust in the Lord.

Secondly, we must keep anticipation alive in our hearts. Pope Benedict says “the Transfiguration of the Lord puts before our eyes the glory of Christ, which anticipates the resurrection and announces the divinization of man” (Benedict XVI, Lenten Address 2011). The Transfiguration foreshadows the Resurrection. Lent anticipates and ends in Easter. We should anticipate that God desires to give us that same joy the apostles felt at the Resurrection. When we come before the Lord expecting and anticipating Him to work in our lives, He is able to accomplish great things. Strive to anticipate great things from God in this season.

Lent is a kind of life in miniature. We are successful in some of our battles with temptation. Sometimes we fail and struggle with our weakness. We go through ups and downs. As we draw closer to Easter lean into the Lord. Trust in Him. Anticipate His generosity. If we are faithful, all will be used for our wellbeing. God can use our struggles and crosses to bring about our resurrection just as His own cross was used for His Resurrection. But in those struggles, remember that He is there. Remember those moments of grace when your perception of Him was clear. He retains His glory power even if we can’t see it. He invites us to trust in Him, firmly believing that the best is yet to come.

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