SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT A

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT A

Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 32; 2Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9

There are three homily notes here for our reflection during this Second Sunday of Lent

Fr. Thomas Oyode

“Lent: The Call to Listen and to go Forth”

In today’s gospel reading we are made to reflect on a very important experience in the life of Peter, James and John. It is an episode immediately following Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah and his refusal to accept that the Messiah would suffer and die albeit rise again on the third day. It is an experience by which Christ reveals his glory, in all its splendour,to the three with Moses and Elijah as witnesses and God himself giving his confirmation just in the same way as in the scene of the baptism, only that in this instance, he adds: “listen to him”.

Why does God speak again, insisting that the disciples must listen to his Son, the Word of God? Could it be because Peter had believed that Jesus is indeed the Messiah but would not accept the fact that the Messiah would suffer and die in the hands of the religious and political authorities? Of course Peter would have realised that it was necessary, as a matter of faith to listen to the Lord. More than that however, it is probably because Moses and Elijah had also appeared discussing with Jesus while he was being transfigured. As a Jew, Matthew knew the importance of these figures to the faith., they bring to mind the Law and the Prophets, the entire socio-religious consciousness of the Jewish people. Now God tells the disciples to whom Christ would later hand over the mission of perpetuating the salvation of souls, to listen rather to his Son, the Christ. This is precisely because everything about the Old Testament points to Christ., in him the hidden mysteries of the Old Testament have been revealed. He is the Light, the Sun of Righteousness who not only fullfils the prophecies but also gives the laws their deepest and perfect meaning. Thus the feasts, the covenant at Sinai and all the Old Testament practices point to and find their truest meanings in Christ. It is thus a call to focus on him without distractions and sheer excitement.

It would be borne in mind, also that to listen is more than merely hearing. It requires attention, participation, involvement. I think of something phenomenological here. A way of seeking to enter into the heart of Jesus, or seeking to let Jesus enter into our hearts so that we begin to see the world and reality with the eyes of Christ. It is a kind of listening that is birthed in and by childlike trust, a kind of listening that imitates, emulates the master. It is a listening that runs contrary to a market place spirituality. In other words, it seeks the conviction of the gospel of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in making choices rather than the judgment of men or popular opinion.

Our common experience as Catholics, basically, is that lent is a period of deeper retreat, reflection and prayer. It is indeed a time to listen more, re-evaluating our journey with God and his Church.More than listening, it is also a time for action, for concrete praticalisation of what has been learnt from the Master. Precisely for this reason, Jesus immediately leads the disciples down from the mountain to where the crowds are gathered around a sick child (Mat. 17:14). This is important because the first reading tells us of how Abraham was called by God and sent forth. Thus, a Christian people, a Church that listens is a Church that goes forth. This is what Pope Francis calls the “missionary church” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 20, 46-49).As a matter of fact, the Holy Father makes particular reference to the passage of today’s first reading in this exhortation. We think of a Church that does not seek to remain at the peak of the mountain of the Transfiguration, remaining tented in such reverie without the consciousness of the essential thing which is to bring the glory of the mountain to bear in the lives of the suffering, the sick, the unjustly treated, prisoners of conscience, unpaid labourers, the unjustly condemned to prison, the homeless, migrants abandoned and forgotten in the streets, the hungry, students who can not pay their fees, and to youths who have become disillusioned by a corrupt system where honest labour is disregarded and wealth from unproven legitimate sources is celebrated. It is a time when Christian politicians realise that it is poor judgment to seek to donate money to churches more than to seek to provide basic amenities that are,  as a matter of fact, the people’s inalienable rights.

Lent, therefore, is a time at which we are reminded that all of us have something to offer to bring Christ and the goodness of God to others. It is no longer a time to sit back, evaluating the laws without seeking for ways to improve the well-being of our world. It is no longer a time of sitting on mountain tops, making proclamations without action. It is not a time for mere fasting and prayers, stations of the cross on the knees or barefooted, mediation and contemplation to the point of ecstasy. It is a time when we must seek to bring all of our spiritual exercises to bear on our relationship with those who need our charity, our patience, our forgiveness, our mercy, our warmth, our gentleness,our understanding and our smiles. Here is the challenge, here is the way of the Cross. Here also is the meaning of Jesus’ Transfiguration: that the suffering, the discomfort, the inconveniences of reaching out to the needs of others must have a goal, a focus. That focus is Christ himself to whom we must listen and who we must imitate. Thus the second reading exhorts us not to count on our merit or abilities. That focus also is the glory that awaits those who remain till the end,the reward that is Christ himself. May the Blessed Virgin Mary obtain for us the grace of perseverance in good works. Amen.

Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai

Called to be Transfigured

Transfiguration: The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin roots trans– (“across”) and figura (“form, shape”). It thus signifies a change of form or appearance. This is what happened to Jesus in the event known as the Transfiguration. His appearance changed and became glorious. Similar to this experience in the life of Jesus is the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. In both scenes Jesus took Peter, James and John, in both scenes they were heavy with sleep and in both scenes Jesus was visited from on high. The same witnesses were chosen in both scenes so that the memory of the Transfiguration becomes their confidence in the agony in the garden. Therefore, the Transfiguration took place in order to strengthen the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the ‘high mountain’ prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: ‘the hope of glory’ [CCC 568]. In the same vein certain spiritual experiences and encounter in the life of Christians are to foster spiritual maturity and courage to stand the days of crisis and hardship. In 1Sam17:37 David became courageous to face the Philistine when he remembered how God helped him to prevail of the lion and beer in the forest. Every spiritual experience should foster uncommon courage in the face of agony.

Transfiguration is call to be serious with our private prayers: Jesus loved to communicate with his Father in spite of his busy schedules he made time to meet privately with God. Many Christians today have settled for public or communal prayers after that nothing else. Most people spend hours in crusade grounds and after that no more prayer until the next gathering. Many Christians are so busy with their personal lives that they hardly make time for personal prayers. When we refuse to pray privately we destroy our relationship with the Father.  Again, Prayer has capacity to change us and the things around us, the gospel, the appearance of Jesus’ face changed as he was praying, and he was transfigured. Beloved in Christ, Jesus in prayer was transfigured. If we imitate him in prayer we shall be transfigured. This means that prayer does not only change things but it has the power to change the person who prays to reflect the glorious nature of God. The nature of God is the nature of holiness, love, kindness, joy, peace, etc.

Transfiguration is call to climb mountain: To climb a mountain such as Horeb is a difficult task; it requires a lot of determination and endurance.  It is only those who are willing to follow the Master in the face of troubles that can experience the glory of the Master.  Do not be intimidated or discouraged by the mountain of challenges you are facing as you follow Jesus; think of his glory which is about to be revealed in your life. When you have a mountain set before you climb it with Jesus, climb it in the name of Jesus, and climb it for Jesus and you shall receive the crown of unfading glory. I say with confidence that no matter how dangerous the path may be, those who walk with Jesus will come out safely. Those who make Jesus their best companion have nothing to fear.

Beloved in Christ, don’t climb mountain alone even Jesus did not climb the mountain alone he went with Peter, James and John. People have business partners; have prayer partners, who can climb that mountain with you. Again, at the mountain these men were sleeping but Jesus who knows our every trouble woke them up to experience the glory for climbing. In Matt. 26:40, “Then Jesus returned to the disciples and found them sleeping. Were you not able to keep watch with Me for one hour?” He asked Peter“ At times we sleep when we are supposed to be praying, when we pick up the rosary we sleep, when we come to the Church we sleep; but Jesus knows all about our troubles, He will guide till the day is dawn. There is not a friend like the lonely Jesus no not one no not one.

Transfiguration is a call to God’s presence: Peter said’ “It is good for us to be here.” Peter’s statement shows the beauty of the presence of God and the need for us to desire to dwell in His presence at all times. This teaches us that there is a feeling of awesomeness in the presence of God. Ps. 122:1 says I rejoice when I heard them say let us go to the house of the Lord. Ps.16:11 In the presence of God there is fullness of joy. This implies that, outside His presence is chaos. It was dangerous for the people of Israel to be without the tabernacle the presence of Christ; in the same vein for Christians to be without his presence is dangerous. Let us carry His presence wherever we go and be conscious of his presence, even in the Church some have lost the consciousness of his sacred presence and that is why they dress anyhow, talk anyhow, make troubles and disturb others. Some behave as if it is not good for us to be in the Church.

Again, Jesus said to Peter, we cannot remain here and rest. Saying to us, your blessing is not for personal comfort and rest but for the best. It becomes for the best, when others gain from us. Lent is a season of sharing our blessings; if God has not withheld his favour from you do not fail to favour others. When we say the mass is ended it simply means the blessings are extended. What we have experienced on this mountain top let us go and spread it.

Transfiguration is God’s divine call: The second reading makes us to understand that God calls and enlightens us. He calls us in line with his own purpose for us. Therefore let us not be abashed when there are suffering by the reason of this call. He calls us because he want us to be saved.  All those who are called by God are called to leave the former ways of life and embrace a new life. When Saul was called his name did not only change to Paul but is purpose changed. In the first reading Abram was called by God to leave his own country and father’s house. This call brought about a changed not only in his name but in his purpose. Every time God calls us we should respond for in that call He is set to change our name and destiny, He wants us to be transfigured and transformed so that we can begin to live the life he has planned for us since the foundations of the world. He calls us out from our sinful habits to new life in him.  During this lent may we respond to this Divine call be transformed into a new creation through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Stephen Udechukwu

 It is time to leave

 Getting Nigerian passport was a long journey requiring a lot of patient for me even when I paid high above the normal price. During this period, I became inquisitive and had to ask some of those at the top of affairs of Nigerian immigration some questions why securing a passport had to take time. Two of them said “Sir, if you know the number of Nigerians who leave this Country daily you will marvel”. Then it dawned on me that virtually every man is constantly in search and in need of a comfortable life and living.  Nigerians exit the Country on a daily basis because the Country is not comfortable for them and once they find a better place all they do is settle and most often find no reason of returning home. Hence it is difficult to ask a man to leave a place of his comfort.                                          

       Our first reading presents us with the story of Abraham who had to leave his comfort zone in obedience to God. The Lord God says to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…” He was seventy-five years old. What a trouble and discomforting it was for Abraham at seventy- five to leave his comfort zone, his kindred, friends and family to an unknown land and unknown mission.  Imagine what it would be like to depart and know that you will never return home? Imagine what it will like to leave your home and not know your destination? But the shocking and surprising thing is that for Abraham to be blessed and be a blessing to others, he must leave his home.             

 The story of Sarah and Abraham teaches that the place of blessing and rest is to be found by leaving your present situation of sin which you have found so comforting. The Bible is full of stories of people whom God asked to leave their comfort zones, sometimes not of sin but because sometimes one has to make sacrifice in order to be blessed by God though their going may not always be a physical departure to a new address. The “unknown land” God calls people to can be a new task, a new neighborhood, even a new group of friends. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush in Exodus 3: 10 and said to him “go now I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the sons of Israel out of Egypt”. Moses after all his doubts and resistance still obeyed God and went. For Ruth to be blessed in the land of Bethlehem, she had to give up her own people. She gave up everything and remained faithful to Naomi her mother-in-law. Hence she says to Naomi in Ruth 1:16, “for where you go, there I shall go, where you live, there I shall live. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” In Matthew 9:9-13 Jesus called Matthew and says leave the world you know and follow me and indeed he left and became a great apostle. Again in Mathew 4:20-22 James and John left their father and all they had to embrace a new life. Thus entering the unknown seems to be a precondition for receiving and being a blessing to others.                                       

God had a great plan for Abraham but his background was not conducive for such plan hence he has to leave such environment to embrace the plan of God. Abraham was a born idol worshipper whose father Terah was a professional maker of idols. His entire family worshipped idols made with their own hands. His background, however, is that of a man least qualified for such a divine task and he had to leave in order to be qualified for the divine task. Beloved in Christ, God has a great plan for you but just like Abraham, to be qualified for such plan you have to leave your present situation of sin; you may have to leave your friends who probably lead you to sin; you may have to leave your family if they are leading you to sin. Jesus says in Matthew 5:29-30 “if your right eye causes you to sin, plug it out and throw it away.” This is interpreted as the sacrifice we must make to keep away from those and things that lead us to. Sometimes they are so dear to us hence the bible makes use of eye and hand which are so dear to every man and difficult to do without.  You may have become comfortable in it such that leaving becomes so difficult and may be impossible for you but you must note that Abraham was equally comfortable in his family worship of idols. Lenten season affords us that opportunity to leave our sins behind and embrace Christ who keeps knocking at the doors of our heart. He says in Revelation 3:20 “behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my call and opens the door, I will come in to him and have supper with, and he with me.”  For how long then will you keep Jesus knocking without opening for him to enter.? May God give us the grace to turn to him with a sincere heart especially during this holy season of lent. Amen. HAPPY SUNDAY AND GOD BLESS YOU 

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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