Sunday, 8 March 2009

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B, Shaftesbury

Mk 9:2-10; Gen 22:1-18; Rom 8:31-34.
This week I feel like I’ve been continually hungry. This isn’t because I’ve gone on one of those 3 day detox fasts I referred to last week, but rather, because of the common phenomenon of yearning for the very thing that I’ve given up:
I’ve given up snacks between meals, and even though I know my food intake is the same, and even though I don’t have snacks very often anyway, the very fact that I’ve resolved NOT to have snacks makes me YEARN for them!

Enduring in the midst of even a minor difficulty is always a struggle.
Enduring in more serious difficulties is even more so.
If we are to endure, we need some vision of hope to be focussed on, something that is the goal holding us steadfast in our hardships.
On the second Sunday on Lent the Church always reminds us of the Transfiguration: it was the vision Christ put before his disciples to sustain them through the suffering of His death, and it can be the vision to sustain us through the disciplines of Lent, and through the disciplines of life.
Just before this gospel passage, Jesus had predicted his coming death. He predicted it repeatedly as he approached Jerusalem, and his disciples must have been greatly troubled by these passion predictions. So he gave them this revelation was given to them to sustain them through the coming events in Jerusalem.

Jesus Christ has also revealed Himself to us in His fullness. He suffered and died; He rose again in glory, and so we can all hope to do the same. The Transfiguration of Christ is the sign and promise of the transfiguration that will happen to all those who do the Father's will. This is the central fact that gives us the motivation to carry our crosses through this valley of tears that we live in.

But in itself this fact is of no use to us. We must BELIEVE it in order for it to give us hope. The disciples had Christ's glory revealed to them, but their faith was weak, and so when tribulation came they panicked and fled. Revelation has been offered to us, but it is only if we accept it in faith that we can benefit from it.

Abraham, in our First Reading, is the complete opposite of the faithless disciples. He obeyed God fully, but he was only able to obey because he trusted in God, and that trust is rooted in faith. Abraham believed that God's promise to him would be fulfilled, and so he gave God the obedience of faith, and God rewarded him for it.
We too must believe what God has promised us.

The secular world often talks of "blind faith" as if it was something vague and unknowing. But that kind of faith cannot sustain us in turmoil. Faith must be certain if it is to be of any use to us. A faith that is not certain is a faith that is cruel, because it will desert us when we need it most. The faith we need must have the certainty of Abraham, and the certainty that the Apostles had after the resurrection. It was that faith that enabled them to endure persecution and suffering, still confidently hoping in God.

We have many reasons to be certain of our faith, but the most basic one is the one that St Paul referred to in his letter to the Romans: God loved us so much that He gave His only Son, and He suffered and died for love of us, and He rose triumphant from the grave. What greater proof of His love could we ask for? If God has done all this for us then surely He will also give us everything that we need, and reward us in eternity –even through hardships here below. This is the sure and certain foundation for our faith.

Such faith will help us to carry our Cross cheerfully. In particular in Lent, it will help us embrace our sufferings in penance, motivate us to pray more, and to be generous in our charity.
If we have faith then we will be able to make the prayer in today's psalm:
"I trusted even when I said, 'I am sorely afflicted'".
And we trust because we have faith that God loves us and guides our lives, and that ultimately suffering will be no more, we will share his glory,
and we "WILL walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living."

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