2nd Sunday of Lent
Pueri Cantores; St. Patrick’s Day Parade Mass
March 12 & 13, 2022
Basilica of the Assumption
Years ago, before GPS and cellphones existed, a priest-secretary was driving his bishop to a local Catholic high school for Mass. The route leading to the high school was complicated and traffic was heavy. Before long, the priest and his bishop were hopelessly lost. The priest pulled off the road, put the car in park, and announced to his bishop, “We can’t get there from here!” Eventually, they did get there, but they were gloriously late.
Perhaps that little story serves as an introduction to today’s Scripture readings. Overall, they speak to us of our Lenten calling to depart from a life of sin and to journey toward that new life of freedom, joy, and peace which Christ won for us by his Cross and Resurrection . . . a journey that we may reluctant to make because it is long and difficult, a journey we may think impossible to undertake and to complete successfully.
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Our remote point of departure is the covenant, the solemn agreement that God made with Abraham, our father in faith. As we read, God chose Abram, and even though Abram had no descendants, he promised to make of him a great nation with countless descendants. To ratify his promises, God Presence passed in the midst of sacrificed animals, and with that, the long and winding journey of the people of Israel began. Eventually, that journey would lead them from the slavery of Egypt, through the desert, where they wandered for forty years, and finally to the land which, in today’s reading, God promised to Abram. Throughout this centuries-long exodus, God would accompany his people, and would raise up Moses as their leader and send them prophets like Elijah. Their journey was not easy. There were delays, detours, and grumbling. Wandering in the desert, the people said in effect, ‘we can’t get there from here’! But God fulfilled his promises and delivered them to a land flowing with milk & honey. Yet, even this beautiful land was but a foretaste of what God intended to do for his Chosen People and ultimately, for a suffering humanity.
This brings us to the Gospel, the point of departure for Jesus’ exodus. That point of departure was Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountaintop. With Jesus were his inner-circle – Peter, John, and James. And here we find Jesus deeply engrossed in prayer to his heavenly Father, for Jesus was in constant communication with the Father who sent him into the world to lead us from our sins to the glory of heaven. While Jesus was praying, his inner-glory as God’s Son was revealed. His face radiated God’s glory and his clothes became dazzlingly white. Moses and Elijah appeared and they were conversing with Jesus. St. Luke tells us they were discussing Jesus’ exodus, his departure from that mountain and his journey to Jerusalem where he would undergo his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
This vision, which summed up the whole God’s redemptive plan, was too much even for Jesus’ closest followers, who were overcome by sleep. But upon awaking, they glimpsed ‘the glory of God shining on the face of Christ’. Peter, trying to take it all in, suggested that being together like that was a good thing, and offered to provide three tents, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus… Peter wanted to remain on the mountaintop, but Moses, Elijah, and above all, Jesus knew he had to leave that mountain and journey towards another mountain, the hill of Calvary where he would die. In that critical “hour” when the salvation of the world was about to unfold, God the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” “All lost in wonder”, the disciples fell silent and were alone with Jesus. Thus began the journey, the point of departure for the exodus you and I are to make during this forty day period we call Lent.
As we began our “exodus” on Ash Wednesday, we resolved by prayer, fasting, and penance to begin our spiritual journey anew, a journey that leads from sinful, self-centered living to a renewal of our lives, such that they reflect “the glory of God shining on the face of Christ”. It’s not easy to depart from one’s comfort zone, including sinful self-indulgence, whether it be food or drink, viewing degrading images on-line, bodily pleasures, or indifference to the poor and the vulnerable, or a lukewarm attitude toward God.
St. Paul tells us that if we try to stay in place, we will destroy ourselves, and show ourselves to be “enemies of the Cross of Christ”. Instead of worshipping the Lord, we will worship our stomachs – Paul’s way of saying that we can end up worshipping the things we think will satisfy our cravings. In fact, these things keep us stuck in a place slavery; they dominate us. Held in the thrall of our comfort zone, we begin to think that it is neither possible nor worthwhile to make our exodus from sin to grace and from grace to glory. As if to say, ‘you can’t get there from here, so don’t bother trying!’ Thus, our Lenten penances, half-hearted at best, quickly falter and fade away.
This must not happen to us. Catching the vision of Christ’s glory and worthily receiving the Lord of glory in the Eucharist, let us resolve to set out anew in the midst of Lent, first by praying as Christ prayed, for only the one who prays can find the way, then by re-engaging our Lenten penances which free us from being stuck in place, then by making a good, unburdening confession of our sins that lights the way, then by engaging in some form of charity as we ourselves seek God’s mercy, and finally by celebrating with joy the death and resurrection of Christ solemnly commemorated in the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter. This is how we get ‘from here to there’ – not on our own but accompanied every step of the way by Christ Jesus, ‘who is the way and our guide along the way.’
Dear friends, with and in Christ, we can get there from here! May God bless us and keep us always in his love.