Joy and Hope
March 6, 2010
Lent wakes us from our slumber
On the Second Sunday of Lent we traditionally hear the Gospel account of the Transfiguration. This year’s account comes from Luke (Lk. 9.28-36). In this account, Peter, James and John were asleep at the moment of the Transfiguration. They had gone up the mountain with Jesus to pray but had fallen into a deep sleep. The Gospel says that they became fully awake and saw the glory of Jesus and his two visitors, Elijah and Moses.
The Gospel was not just referring to physical sleep. The disciples were certainly very tired. Journeying with Jesus had kept them very busy and the mountain climb likely contributed to their fatigue. The evangelist, though, is also saying something more. The disciples were awakened to the true identity of Jesus. They saw him as the Messiah who would fulfill the law and the prophets, represented by the presence of the two formidable Jewish figures, Elijah and Moses. These two prominent friends of God were conversing with Jesus about his approaching sacrifice of the cross that would bring salvation to all the people. Perhaps their animated conversation was what awoke the disciples from their slumber. They were awakened by the voice of their master. They awoke to recognize who Jesus was and the salvation His sacrifice would bring.
This dramatic scene on the mount of the Transfiguration comes to us as we ascend mountain of Lent. The spiritual 40-day climb will lead us to the summit of Calvary where the glory of Christ’s great love will be revealed to us. We make this journey with Jesus so that the Lord can awaken us to His glory. We will see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.
Like the disciples in the Gospel we too can fall asleep during this spiritual journey. The fatigue of busy lives and its many distractions can lull us into complacency and resignation. Paul cautioned the Philippians in the second reading of that Sunday to guard against the many temptations that can prey on our weaknesses and wants (Phil. 3.17- 4.1). Our minds can become occupied by earthly things. Some earthly preoccupations weigh heavy on us: finding a job, paying our bills. Fearful uncertainties about the future can stir up angry tensions that fray the fragile bonds of our families.
The worries of life can make us weary. These are moments when all sorts of temptation can overwhelm us. Our faith and hope in God can fall asleep as we allow ourselves to be haunted by restless fears and wants. Temptations can become relentless demons in our minds, preying on our fears, worries, and wants. We may be prone to give into our temptations because we feel alone. In giving in to them, we fall into dull complacency and resignation.
Paul tells us that to be truly awake means remembering always that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” How does the Lord Jesus awaken us during this Lent? How can we let His wisdom and mercy shake the moral slumber from our souls?
The hurch already invites us to abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent as well as fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This simple sacrifice is one humble way to meet Jesus. More than these minimal ascetical practices, meeting the Lord Jesus needs to a daily practice, especially during Lent. Praying the rosary once a day, remembering to say grace before each meal, reading portions of the Passion accounts in the Gospel each day -- these are helpful, gentle alarms that awaken us and remind us that we are on a journey with Jesus. We learn to listen to the Lord as did the disciples in the Gospel today.
Go to confession during Lent. In the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, the Lord can shake the burden of sin from our souls and refresh us with His mercy. He dispels the shame of sin with the glory of His grace.
Organize more family meals during the week. This healthy and helpful habit nourishes our souls as well as our bodies. Being together as a family of faith reminds us of our common citizenship in heaven. It strengthens us against those temptations that can break us apart.
Another way to break out of one’s lonely fears and worries is the practice of charity. Giving up during Lent should lead to giving for others. Helping distribute food to the needy, participating in 40 Days For Life by spending some time in prayer in front of an abortion clinic, visiting the sick, these are all ways we can meet the Lord.
These are all ways that we awake from our solitary slumber and see the Lord more clearly, love him more nearly, and follow him more dearly.