Sunday, March 1, is the Second Sunday of Lent (Year B).
This is a good week to remind everyone of his or her Lenten commitment. April writes each family member’s Lenten sacrifice with white crayon on a separate black piece of construction paper and hangs the paper in the hall by his or her bedroom. At the top of each page is a cross. That way, everyone in the family gets a daily reminder of what we are giving up — and why.
Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18; Psalm 116:10, 15-19; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10
Just as Lent is getting off the ground, today’s Gospel gives us the story of the Transfiguration. While we commemorate the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the desert with nothing but wild beasts as his companions, we are presented with an image of Jesus transformed in a glorious way on the mountaintop with the great prophets Elijah and Moses as his companions.
It is a timely reminder of what the sacrifice of Lent is leading toward: a total transformation in Christ.
This Sunday reminds the two of us of a monastery we frequently visited in college. It was a Ukrainian Catholic monastery devoted to the Transfiguration. When we made the trip, it was typically Lent. The monks would share their simple, sparse meal with us, and we would pray with them and attend Divine Liturgy.
The monks’ whole life was a kind of Lent, and they had clearly been transformed by it. They had the gentle attractiveness and power of presence about them that only comes from God — a mini-transfiguration.
In Lent, we are all supposed to be like that.
In the first reading, Abraham is clearly a man transfigured by God. Each time he hears the call of God, he says, “Here I am!” If he were not a man of prayer, with a heart open to God, God could not have communicated with him so easily. God asks him to undertake a journey up a mountain, and Abraham agrees. Then God asks him to sacrifice his son, and Abraham’s generosity doesn’t hold back.
The practice of Lent can make us just like that: Praying more makes our hearts more open to God. Fasting in Lent makes our wills more docile to God. And sacrificing during Lent helps put the created order in perspective, allowing us to be more generous to God.
As St. Paul puts it in the second reading: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?”
When Abraham takes his beloved son up the mountain, the son who represented his future and his self-worth, he is putting everything on the line. And he is willing to give all of that to God. The only place to gain the strength to do it is from God himself — who spared his son and promised to bless Abraham.
This Lent is the time to do just that.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.