Sunday Reading by Kathy Ebner
Readings for March 20, Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 12:1-4a; 2 Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9
Life is a journey. This is a statement we are familiar with and perhaps have heard too often. Though they are different, all journeys have a beginning, a middle period and an ending. Imagine God appearing to you in your comfortable middle period and inviting you to continue your life’s journey in a different country. You will need to uproot your immediate family, leaving behind friends and possessions. How would you react? How would your family feel about moving to an unknown country? How would you make a living? These are just a few questions that come to mind and I’m sure there are many more.
Of course, this is just an imaginary journey for us but not for Abram. God calls Abram to a commitment that transcends even his family ties, the most important of all relationships in the ancient world, and God tells him to move first and then he will be told where he is going. But this command comes with a powerful promise. First of all, God promises Abram land, and then God promises to make of Abram’s offspring a great nation with the implication of a long line of descendants. Thirdly, God promises to bless Abram. Blessing involves fertility, life, success, well-being and a good name.
This story presents two major themes: God made a promise to Abram, and God blessed Abram because of his faithfulness. In response to these promises and this command to “go,” Abram responds in obedience. His faith sustained him through all that lay ahead.
Both the psalm and the letter from Timothy emphasize this same theme of faith, calling us to trust in God who will give us the strength we need as we answer his call to journey as a disciple of Christ. Do we have the faith of Abram? So often we think we have our life planned and unexpected events turn everything upside down. The financial crisis of the past few years is an example of this. How do you respond to these surprise events? Do you surrender your plans trusting that God is leading or resist any change in your life’s journey?
The Apostles were constantly being surprised. They answered the call of Jesus and followed him without hesitation but their journey was not what they expected. The Transfiguration seems more like what they were hoping: to see Jesus in his glory. When the disciples fall to the ground in holy awe, the glorified Jesus comes near, touches them, and commands them not just to stand up but to “be raised.” Jesus then commands them not to speak of this event until he himself has been raised, this time from death.
Just when Peter, James, and John think they finally are on the journey they expected, Jesus starts talking about his death again. There is something about this event, that can’t be understood until after the resurrection but they don’t understand resurrection. The injunction to “listen to him” addressed to Peter, James and John will become painful in the weeks ahead as they regularly fail to do just that, or at least fail to understand what they are listening to.
Most of us have had mountaintop experiences and can testify to their importance to our lives. But all of us have also had to return to the valley and struggle to listen to and understand Jesus. As we begin our Lenten reflections, let us not forget that Jesus is there, reaching out to raise us to life again.
Kathy Ebner is a member of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Lewes, where she serves as spiritual director and catechist.