2nd Sunday of Lent: 28 February 2021
|The icon of the Transfiguration - Byzantine|
St Ignatius of Loyola narrates such a mystical experience which gave him clarity about many things in his Autobiography [30:2] at the river Cardoner in Manresa, Spain in 1522 soon after his conversion experience: “He sat down for a little while with his face to the river—Cardoner—which was running deep. While he was seated there, the eyes of his understanding began to be opened; though he did not see any vision, he understood and knew many things, both spiritual things and matters of faith and learning, and this was with so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new to him. It was as if he were a new man with a new intellect.”
Such kind of solid experiences of grace which theologian Fr Karl Rahner would call "consolation without previous cause" which, strengthen our faith in the Divine Master. We feel through such moments clarity beyond doubt and we are absorbed by his divine illumination, wisdom or courage. We are ready to make alterations in our lifestyle because we are sure that it is God who is leading us. No intimidations, sufferings, failures or even the thought of our unsuitability cannot stop us from taking the step that we have already decided upon. This is what precisely the three disciples felt about themselves and are ready to journey with Jesus rest of their lives.
II. Suffering that Shapes us
One of the prominent incidents in the call of Abraham is God's challenge to sacrifice his only son Issac. Certainly, God probes the faithfulness of Abraham. Even though, this episode (Genesis 22:1-18) might be too much for us to take in what we need to learn is that for God nothing is impossible. When God wants something from us concretely, none of us can say no to it including our suffering, pain or even our death. The life of Abraham, father of our faith was not an easy one. He had experienced the loneliness from his dear and near one's, once he began his journey to an unknown land, he sees the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in front of his eyes (Gen 19), his nephew Lot’s wife in that fire turned into a pillar of salt (Gen 19:12–29), he sees no apparent heir or progeny, and now the call to sacrifice his only legitimate son, Issac, etc. In the midst of such despair, Abraham sees his future only in One God. The tests of God only strengthen his faith in order to face the trials of life.
The vision of God is attainable in our ordinary lives when we give time to God and others. Lenten Season invites us to put the interests of others in front of us. If we are ready to share in Christ's cross then we will share in his resurrection as well. With all their fears of Christ’s passion and their own, the disciples climbed the mountain however this vision of glory was given to sustain them and to keep them listening to Jesus, however difficult his words might be. Lent is surely a time to discipline ourselves in this regard especially to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
III. Cross is not the end of the story
St Paul's bold words to the Romans should strengthen us: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31). Often we hear many voices which try to tell us how to live and how to know God personally. Some of these are helpful; many are not. For St Paul God is our judge but he is on our side. At the beginning of this week, we celebrated the feast of the Chair of St Peter. A traditional feast that celebrates the authority and the unity St Peter commands. No one can deny that St Peter was a witness to the sufferings of Christ. His discipleship was shaped and strengthened through his smooth and rough encounters with Jesus. Because of his deep attachment to his Master, Peter often got confused and miss understood. However, his genuine faith and carefully nurtured relationship with Jesus made him one of the closest disciples and had the rarest opportunity in witnessing Jesus in his glory.
As Christians, we are called not to give up when adversaries come up in our lives. We are to be bold like St Peter, St Paul and many other apostles. If we have truly embraced Jesus, then we cannot say no to him when we begin to sink. He is there always to lift us up. Pope Francis in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, invites us to give witness to Christ through our life of "encounter." He says: “To speak of a ‘culture of encounter’ means that we, as a people, should be passionate about meeting others, seeking points of contact, building bridges, planning a project that includes everyone.” (FT #216). Probably this task is indeed difficult and painful in today's world. But we have to get our "hands dirty" which involves many hardships, sacrifices, wounds and tears. Cross is not the end of the story but a beginning of a future, a future in God. Because God will undoubtedly give us everything we need. So in the coming weeks, let us try to see all those we encounter as they really are, precious and beloved by God. We pray that these encounters, whether in person or virtual, may inspire us to work together to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others.
Questions for Reflections:
1. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” – how does that sound for you?
2. How might the sufferings you yourself have witnessed helped to shape your own discipleship?
3. What might Jesus say about you as he speaks in your favour? Have you felt anytime, Jesus is pleading on your behalf?
God of compassion and love, be my guide through all that is dark and doubtful. Be my guard against all that threatens my spirit’s welfare. Be my strength in time of testing. Help me to listen to your word and to see you in all people that I meet. May I approach all encounters with an open heart and work together with others to transform our world. Gladden my heart with your peace; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
27th February 2021