Sunday, Feb. 21, is the Second Sunday of Lent (Year C).
Mass Readings: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14; Philippians 3:17-4:1 or 3:20-4:1; Luke 9:28-36
Here, near the beginning of Lent, the Church shows us with our readings what we are aiming for at the end of Lent: transfiguration — or, in terms of our lives, “exodus” or becoming “fully awake.”
In the Gospel, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor to pray. They see his prayer change him in appearance: “His clothes became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.”
The apostles thus receive the same focus that the Church gives us in Lent. They are directed, in prayer, to look toward the passion, death and resurrection of Christ as an “exodus.”
An interesting thing happens to Peter as they speak. While the other two disciples are overcome by sleep, Peter becomes “fully awake,” and he wants to keep Moses and Elijah with him, in tents.
This is not to be, however. A cloud comes and frightens all three apostles: You get the sense that it is a descending fog. It reminds us of the darkness we read about in the first reading, where we are told “a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped” Abram, and only God’s light broke through, as God made a covenant with him, promising him descendants that number as many as the stars.
From the midst of the Gospel’s darkness comes a voice that tells the three apostles that Moses and Elijah are no longer their focus: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
The Father’s Lenten instruction to the apostles is like the Church’s instruction to us: Focus on the cross that is the end of Lent; go there with Jesus, who is our Lenten companion.
We even get specifics of what this will entail. In the second reading, St. Paul explains how to stay focused on Jesus Christ. First, fast. Don’t be like those for whom “their God is their stomach, their glory is in their ‘shame.’“ These are the people — very likely, we are often among them — who live for comfort. We are not to be like that. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” This citizenship will give us “glorified bodies” like Jesus has.
Together, these readings paint a picture of who we should be at the end of Lent: no longer as attached to earthly goods, wanting to help make Jesus Christ’s descendants as plentiful as the stars and wanting to get as many people as possible to be citizens in heaven.
If your Lent is not headed in that direction, it is by no means too late to change. Adopt a practice that will head in that direction.
Pray that, just as God has done so often before, he will lead you on an exodus from slavery to sin, from slavery to your carnal appetites and into the promised land of a deeper relationship with him.
Pray that you will be “fully awake” to the presence of God and the souls he loves all around you.
Pray that you will be transfigured with him through trial by staying close to Christ.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.