2nd Sunday of Lent. March 16th 22014
Genesis 12:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9
Changing faces, unchanging hearts
Two things changed during the Transfiguration of Jesus. His face “shone like the sun” and his “clothes became white as light;” but His heart remained the same. Jesus’ face and His clothes changed but His heart’s commitment to the Father remained the same. Jesus Himself gave us an insight into His mutual commitment with His Father when He said to His disciples, “He who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him.” (Jn 8:29) There would be a stark contrast between the transfiguration experience and His brutal death but, by virtue of their mutual commitment, Jesus is emboldened to declare that even in death, He will be “raised from the dead.”
Fast-forward now to the moment of His agony at the garden of Gethsemane. Now His Father is silent. There is no Moses or Elijah. There are no bright clouds. Jesus’ face changes again but this time it is not shining like the sun but it is filled with anguish and pain. His clothes changes again but this time it is not white as light but it is drenched with the bloody sweat of His Passion. His situation changes but, once again, His heart’s commitment to the Father does not change as He cries out from the depths of His being, “Father, not my will but yours be done.”
The Transfiguration experience in today’s Gospel does not last long. It cannot be prolonged indefinitely. This is so as to impress on the hearts and minds of the disciples this basic truth – their conditions will constantly change in this life but, if their hearts remain faithful to their commitment to the Lord, they will share in the fullness of the glory. The transfigured face of Christ presents to them a preview and foretaste of the glory that awaits us when we go through the ups and downs of this life but do not let our hearts’ commitment to God to waver in any way.
I personally know an elderly couple in Indiana who used to attend daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration together every single evening. The man passed away recently. In my last conversation with the widow, she shared with me the new realities of her life. The pain of her loss was still so hard to bear, the family house had become too big for her alone and she could not drive herself to the places she used to go before. But she added with a joyful note, “But I have a friend at Church come to fetch me and take me to Mass and adoration. I will walk to Mass if I had to do so. I will continue to worship and serve God.” Her conditions have changed, her face surely has changed, but her heart’s commitment to God remains the same. This is the way to the fullness of glory that Jesus brings to us.
Abram’s family has just settled in Haran after leaving Ur. Abram’s settling down is interrupted by God’s call for him to go to an unspecified place, a land which God was to show to him. We are told that “Abram went as the Lord directed him.” By letting go of the security of his land and home, Abram’s situation changes but his heart’s commitment to God remains constant. God will so bless Abram that “all the communities of the earth shall find blessing him” only if Abram’s heart commitment to God does not waver in journeying to the new land that God would show to him.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in this world, our situations will constantly change, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. As our situations and that of the world changes, it is normal for our own faces to change too. There will be times of joy and times of pain, times of hope and times of worry, times of light and times of darkness, times of turmoil and times of peace, times of serenity and times of temptations. There will be times when we feel God so close and moments when we feel abandoned by Him. We are tempted to act like St. Peter who tries to hold on to the passing transfiguration vision: “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” But he must learn to let the vision go while maintaining his commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. We too cannot hold on to life’s glorious moments no matter how hard we try.
What do we do in a world of constant change? This is the time we must consciously renew the commitment that we made to God in holy baptism. At the moment of baptism, either personally or through our godparents, we rejected sin and Satan and pledged allegiance to Jesus Christ and His mission to all mankind. We professed our faith in the One God and our membership in the Catholic Church to worship and serve Him in the Church all the days of our lives. Most importantly, God also made a solemn commitment to us too at baptism that we will be a Father to us, providing for us and guiding us home to Him through this life of constant turmoil. God renews His commitment to us constantly but on our part, we so easily forget our own commitment to Him. We thus become unconscious Christians, blown to and fro by the changing currents of our life and our world.
St. Paul reminds Timothy in the Second Reading that, as a loyal servant of God, his situation has changed. He should now “bear his own share of hardship for the gospel with the grace that comes from God.” Timothy is apparently stressed and worn down by the false teachings of some people in the community. In these trying moments, Timothy is to keep his focus on Christ, remembering that God “calls us to a holy life, not according to our works, but according to His own designs and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.” It is in the heart of the Redeemer Jesus Christ that we find both the mysterious designs of God for us in a constantly changing world as well as the grace to follow this plan with a faithful heart. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, “The Church also maintains that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Gaudium et Spes #10)
This same Jesus Christ renews His commitment to us in every Eucharistic celebration in these words, “This is my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant.” It is through our sacramental communion with His body that we have living contact with and participation in His own unchanging heart towards the Father and towards us. He does not come to make life unchanging for us! He comes to renew and strengthen us in our baptismal commitment in the face of unavoidable life changes. We should remember and recommit to the mutual commitment of our baptisms and remember that the Eucharist is not an end in itself but it is to deepen and sustain us in our life of union with God and with others and the life of loving service that should flow from it.
Let us look to Mary and seek to walk with her along this difficult and mysterious path. She knows best what it means to face constant changes in life and still maintain her commitment to the Lord and His mission. Her face changed a lot in life. Just meditate on the Pieta. But she never wavered in her heart’s commitment: “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.” With Jesus living within us and Mary guiding and guarding us, life will still bring us changes. Our faces will still change. If our hearts’ commitment never changes we can surely hope to enter into the fullness of glory because God’s commitment to us never changes.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!