By Sr. Joan Lescinksi, CSJ, Ph.D.
The readings for the Second Sunday of Lent are ones that call us to transformation. They are, in a very real sense, calling us out of our ‘comfort zones’ and asking us to think differently, to act differently, to BE different in some radical ways.
In the first reading from Genesis (12:1-4A), God calls Abram to give up everything he knows and loves. He asks him to “go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” Think about what that would mean if God called you or me today like that! It would mean giving up everything we know and hold dear: our homes which give us such a sense of groundedness; our circle of friends and family to whom we look for daily support and comfort in times of troubles; our ‘cultural milieu’ whose mores and ways of doing things we understand completely. All of that is what God asked Abram to give up.
Yes, he promised him that he would make his name great, that “all the communities of earth shall find blessing in you.” That’s wonderfully motivational, surely, but it does not fill in the gap for Abram, or for us, when loneliness or regret strikes, as it surely must have for Abram, and certainly would have for us. So, God asks a great deal of Abram, and he responds with a heartfelt “yes.” We must ask for the grace to have that kind of generosity of soul when God challenges us with circumstances in life that demand we “give up” or “move on” from that which we have loved.
The reading from 2 Timothy (1:8B-10) continues that theme of dealing with the hardships that come from following the Gospel. St. Paul reminds us that we will not be left to our own devices: “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Here we can see that ALL of God’s people share in the trials that come when we try to be faithful to our baptismal call to live out the Gospel. In that community of believers, we are assured that God will not leave us comfortless but will provide us with the strength and grace that we need to remain faithful.
And, perhaps most dramatically of all, in the reading from Matthew (17:1-9) we see the three disciples — Peter, James and John — called by Jesus to share a moment of transfiguration. Notice a few details: Jesus chooses a select group, a subset of his disciples, to witness this transformation. He takes them away from their ordinary world, “up a high mountain by themselves.” It is as though Jesus is saying to them: “Let’s leave the distractions of our daily life so that you can see me as I truly am.” And what a sight that was! The Gospel says: “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.” How stunning that must have been to the disciples! To see their Master, with whom they have been intimate for several years, suddenly transfigured: it must have been overwhelming. The Scripture says that “they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.”
What does that challenge us to reflect on in our lives? Perhaps we are being called to take a few moments in our lives, which seem ever more stressed, to quiet, to unplug our earphones, and to put down our smart phones, and really FOCUS on who we are and who Jesus is in our lives. It can be unnerving, suddenly to enter into profound quiet: but that is what Jesus asked his disciples to do with him. And the story of the Transfiguration shows us that Jesus will reveal himself to us if we make that choice. So, perhaps today, we can find five minutes to close our eyes, quiet the din around and within us, and ask God to transform us that we might be even stronger witnesses to the mystery of the profound love of God most perfectly shown in Jesus.
(Sr. Joan Lescinski is president of St. Ambrose University in Davenport.)