March 8, 2020

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO

2nd Sunday of Lent

March 8, 2020
2 nd Sunday of Lent
Genesis 12:1-4A; 2 Timothy 1:8B-10; Matthew 17:1-9

I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee!

I ask pardon for those who do not believe,
do not adore, do not trust and do not love Thee.

During the season of lent Almighty God offers each of us time to prepare our hearts to celebrate the great mystery of the death and resurrection of His Son, who is the cornerstone of our Christian life. In today’s first reading God invited Abram to set out on his journey of faith. This chosen servant was to believe, adore, trust and love the One who called him. Together with his wife, he was to give birth to a nation for the glory of God. Abraham was a man of faith and his fidelity would be tested. Did he love God better than he loved everything else? Was he willing to leave everything he knew and everyone he loved to journey with God alone? Abraham would be asked to make a great sacrifice but the blessing he would receive would be far greater. As heirs of his blessing we are called to be a people of faith, worship, trust, and love. Each of us is invited to allow the seed of God’s Word to produce a rich harvest within us. As we ponder the implanted Word, we will come to believe, adore, trust and love the God who made us.

Christian joy is the fruit that comes from listening to and accepting the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Recall the words of Nehemiah: “This day is holy to the Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). The more we ponder God’s word the more comfort and joy we will find in it. This holy joy is at the heart of praise. We have Jesus’ words on fasting. “When you fast, don’t make it obvious. Do not put on a sad face. Rather, pour sweet-smelling oil on your head and wash your face” (Mat. 6:16-17). In the joy of our hearts, we will fittingly proclaim the greatness of our God. Everything we have we have received from the Lord and should be used with all our skill and devotion in the service of the Lord. We have only to recall these words taken from the Book of Deuteronomy: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength” (Deut. 6:5).

God has not given us a spirit of timidity and cautious circumspection. In Christ, we have been saved from the power of sin and death. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we have everything we need to face life’s difficulties and trials. We have nothing to fear because in Him Who died and rose from the dead we are more than conquerors. The call of the Gospel is a call to a life of repentance and holiness. This call came from God’s lips before the world began. The salvation of every human being was God’s heartfelt desire from all eternity. We need to keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified and under His gaze of love let ourselves be saved over and over again. It is not enough to merely give mental assent to the Word of God. We must embrace it with our hearts and live it with our lives. “The word of God is alive and active. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword. It can pierce the separation of the soul from the spirit, and penetrate between the joints and the marrow. It lays bare the innermost thoughts and desires of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

The voice from the cloud was heard: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him” (Mt. 17:5). As I reflected on today’s gospel passage, I was moved to conflate this passage with a well-known verse from Deuteronomy. Hear, O Israel, my Son and I are one (Cf. Deut. 6:4). The better we understand God’s Word, the more comfort we find in it. United with the disciples atop Mount Tabor, we are given a glimpse of Christ’s glory. When we gather with the disciples atop Mount Calvary we will be bathed in the stream of life-giving water flowing from the pierced side of Christ. By His wounds, we will be healed and made like him. Like the disciples, we will pass through varied experiences along our path to glory. Like the disciples, as we journey we will find that the Lord is our companion on the way. We must listen to the instruction of our Guide because, being nearest the Father’s heart, he will draw us into the communion of love of the Blessed Trinity.

The Father presents His beloved Son to us as His ultimate Word. Our willingness to hear and dialogue with this word can mean the difference between life and death. For this reason, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Heb. 3:15). It is important that we not just listen to the words he speaks. We must also observe and pay attention to His actions. Jesus’ words and actions tell us about God and ourselves. They also tell us about forgiveness, compassion and our responsibility to spread the Good News we have heard. 

The voice directs us to embrace Christ the Living Word, to listen attentively to what He has to say to us, to believe what we hear, to announce what we believe and to put into practice what we announce. Lent is the acceptable time to ponder His words in our hearts and to examine our lives through the perspective of what we have seen and heard. I would like to conclude with a few lines from Oscar Wilde’s short story The Selfish Giant:

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, ‘Who hath dared to wound thee?’ For on the palms of the child’s hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.

     ‘Who hath dared to wound thee?’ cried the Giant;
‘tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.’
     ‘Nay!’ answered the child; ‘but these are the wounds of Love.’
‘Who art thou?’ said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.
And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, ‘
You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.’