Second Sunday of Lent
Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
2 Tm 1:8b-10
So, how is your Lent going?
As we start the second week, maybe the fervor is starting to fade. What seemed so promising and possible only two Wednesdays ago has gone down the drain along with the ashes. Patience is wearing thin. Zeal has given way to monotony. Everywhere, it seems, burgers beckon. We’re haunted by ghosts of Ordinary Time: chocolate, cheesecake, bacon, binge-watching reruns of “Law and Order,” the temptation to snark and snipe on social media.
We long to give in to the things we gave up.
But in the middle of all that we encounter a miracle. This Sunday’s Gospel gives us an event, the Transfiguration, that Thomas Aquinas called “the greatest miracle,” because it gives us a tantalizing glimpse of heaven.
Coming right now, we might consider it a Lenten booster shot. This reminds us of what will come — Jesus’s own glorious resurrection — and it hints at a glory we too can witness. It is a foretaste of paradise. Lent can help lead us there. If we let it.
Small wonder that Peter — in what must be one of the great understatements in history — sums it up succinctly: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”
Yes. It is good for all of us to be here. It is good, right about now, to pause and look up, to wonder at the mystery of the Incarnation and tremble at the miracle of a God who took on our flesh.
But there is more. It is also good for us to remember what this season is about.
We can easily be caught up in the weariness and stubbornness of Lent. We can get lost in the rigors of prayer, sacrifice and fasting. These weeks can be hard, as we struggle to confront our weaknesses and limitations and work to follow more closely in the footsteps of Jesus.
So right about now, we need this Gospel to startle us, refocus us and, maybe, leave us shocked — just as we need the first words of the first reading, from Genesis, to make us sit up and pay attention.
“Go forth,” God tells Abram — and what else could Abram possibly do? God’s command to him is in so many ways his implied challenge to us: Don’t be comfortable; don’t settle; don’t rest on your laurels. There’s more for us to do.
“Go forth.” We realize once more (as a modern hymn reminds us) that we are pilgrims on a journey.
Lent is a season of journeying, of going forth. It’s about getting ready for another journey, to Calvary. But what comes after that? Where do we want Lent to take us? How deeply do our hearts burn for what the apostles saw on that mountaintop?
Pondering the Transfiguration, we ponder the glory of the Lord, and ponder, as well, our own unworthiness. The greatest miracle should make each of us want to go forth — to grow, to change, to deepen our love for Christ as we move deeper into this season of prayer.
Of course, Lent is also a season of perseverance. It can be daunting. We make mistakes. We backslide. Our resolve can prove weak. We realize we screw up. (I’ve lost track of how many times, across how many Lents, I’ve taken a first bite of a hamburger and realized, to my horror, that it’s Friday.)
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to be merciful with ourselves and just continue on, one day at a time. Among other things, Lent is about renewal and restoration, and understanding, in our fallibility, that we are all works in progress.
The first words of the scripture readings this Sunday can rouse us; but the consoling words of Jesus near the end of the Gospel offer comfort and hope. This may be another message we need right about now.
“Rise,” Jesus says, “and do not be afraid.”
Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog, “The Deacons Bench.” He serves in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York.