By Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J.
“Like a flame, like a burning star you can shine right where you are. He (God) made you to glow in the dark … even in the darkest place His (God’s) love can make you radiate…” — “Glow In the Dark” by Jason Gray
Today’s readings are resplendent (to use a radiant, bright, dazzling word) with Scripture images of God’s covenant relationship with us – a relationship that begins with the creation of the world. God calls us as individuals and as a people to a promised bond and relationship that is everlasting. God is continually inviting us to renew that bond in every new day. These readings not only remind us of who we are, but also of who we are as a community of believers – as neighbors together reflecting the face of God in the world. They also seek to help us be open to the transformation – the transfiguration that God is able and desirous to create in our lives.
In the proclamation from Genesis, we hear and “see” as God takes Abram “outside” (of himself, his plan for old age, his limited views of God’s presence and working in his life) to a new place, and invites him to look at the bigger picture.
“Look up and see the heavens – count the stars, if you can – your offspring will outnumber them – I will do this,” God says.
This account and call of God is the “making of a people” – God’s chosen. While it was a covenant with Abraham (a new name) it was an even greater promise of salvation for the people of God (“to your descendants I give this”). Out of a terrifying darkness that was enveloping Abram, the brightness of God’s light (flaming torch) seals the covenant. God can and will change us, transform and transfigure us even in our darkness. We might benefit from going back to Genesis during these Lenten weeks.
As we journey with Abram, we might see our own lives in the story. Abram becomes Abraham, the father of many nations and a “father in the faith” for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. We, his descendants, are all called to radiate God’s presence in this world.
The second readings on the Lenten Sundays are chosen for their connection to the Gospels of those days. Paul’s encouragement is to his first converts, the people of Philippi. They seemed his favorites due to their timing in his life, their support and affection for him and their return of encouragement back to him. He shared a special relationship with them, and even from a jail cell, he writes with such hope and joy in Jesus Christ’s message.
Paul is now paying a price for his preaching. This does not, however, deter him from restating to his followers that their covenant with Christ through baptism has won them “citizenship in heaven,” and that their patience in waiting will see their earthly bodies transformed totally in glory. They, too, are called to radiate God’s ways in their lives. Paul begs them to remain faithful and strong – standing firm in the Lord. Rightfully, he asks them to imitate his response of repentance and fidelity to God’s mercy, call and love.
Luke’s Gospel and writings have a unique ability to paint a picture or offer a scenario into which we are all invited. Today they might be described as having the quality of a high definition television – a “you are there” experience. We’re almost right there in our hearing and viewing. Our hindsight ability, however, may hinder our remaining in the moment. We need to absorb the experience and message for our own lives, not just in the lives of Peter, James and John or Jesus.
This moment is a major turning point in Jesus’ life. He is seen here as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is the Messiah and He manifests to His friends, disciples and us that this mountaintop experience is meant to prepare us for another and yet, different one on the mountain of Calvary. This moment on Mt. Tabor takes place just days after He has predicted that He will go on to suffer and die. Perhaps it was in an effort to avoid the impact of this lesson that Peter, focusing on Jesus’ “glow,” and not His “departure,” seeks to build a place and to remain there rather than move into the reality of Jesus’ prediction.
At our baptism we were signed with the Cross and brought into the message of Calvary in our lives. We were chosen, elected and loved. Presented with a candle the newly baptized are told: “This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly … you are enlightened by Christ … walk always as a child of the light … keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts.”
Discipleship is not an option but a call – a commission to be a light for the world. The call is for all times and all life events. The challenges come when darkness, fear, sin, our own comfort zones or life around us call so loudly that we miss God’s voice. As faithful followers of Christ, we have the promise that we will receive radiant light and be transformed with eternal life. God made us to “glow in the dark.” God’s love “can make us radiate.”
Let us pray for each other and for our community as a people of God.
Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18
Psalm 27: 1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
Philippians 3:17 – 4:1 or Philippians 3:20 – 4:1
Luke 9: 28b-36
Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.