FIRST READING (The call of Abraham, the father of God’s people.)
A reading from the Book of Genesis (12:1-4a)
The Lord said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.
“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” Abram went as the Lord directed him. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22)
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. (Ps 33:22)
Upright is the word of the Lord, and all his works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full. (R)
See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine. (R)
Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you. (R)
SECOND READING (God has saved us and called us to be holy.)
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy (1:8b-10)
Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.
He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Cf. Mt 17: 5)
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard: This is my beloved Son, listen to him. (R)
GOSPEL (Jesus’ face shone like the sun.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (17:1-9)
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “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.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us.”
Last week’s readings were summed up eloquently with the words of the Psalmist, “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.” On this 2nd Sunday of Lent, the Psalmist again offers a key to the readings found in God’s “kindness:” “May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you.”
“Kindness” is the foundation of the covenant of love that binds God with us – it is the basis of His compassion and generosity. Our God is a God who cares for us and for all in need, and so “our soul waits on the Lord, who is our help and our shield.” The readings today offer to us examples of this divine kindness.
In our first reading from Genesis we hear again of the call of Abram and God’s promise to him. It was because of God’s love for all that he had created and especially for creating man and woman that God then chose Abram to be the progenitor or beginning of a great new nation. God will not only bless Abram and his descendants, but also all other peoples of the world will be blessed through Abram. This is a wonderful story of the inexplicable graciousness of God.
In St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, we are reminded again of God’s goodness. God “saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works, but according to his own design.” We see again how God’s goodness is not a reward for people who are righteous. We do nothing to deserve or merit it. This goodness, this loving kindness is a free gift from God – GRACE. It is not a form of compensation, a quid pro quo for being righteous. This gift, this grace is the impetus that sparks in us the need for conversion and change of life. Just as feelings of joy and a desire to reciprocate follow receiving an unexpected and treasured gift from someone else, this is the dynamic at work in us when we receive this GRACE, this free gift from God.
St. Paul – who more than any New Testament writer addresses the concept of grace – takes this a step further in his teaching when he insists that this grace was there for all humanity because of Jesus Christ, our savior. From the beginning of time God cared for his beloved creation, ready to lift them up when they fell, forgive them when they lost their way, care for them when in need, and always ready to offer to them life in the face of death.
The readings then turn to the Transfiguration, that miraculous event on a high mountain described in all the Synoptic Gospels. But what happened? As described by Matthew, the scene is quite dramatic as Jesus seems to be taken up to another realm, a place of light and brilliance. He is seen conversing with men long dead, Moses and Elijah, who represent the LAW and the PROPHETS, the fundamental religious tradition of the Old Testament. Their appearance with Jesus confirms the authority of Jesus and gives his teaching weight and gravity. The brilliance or aura of light around Jesus described here in the transfiguration signifies that this is an important religious moment, a manifestation of God. No wonder that Peter wanted the moment to last – and he wanted to stay and bask in it.
But the real moment of revelation was yet to take place. While the light and beauty of the Transfiguration stunned Peter, James and John it was the voice from heaven that struck fear and awe into them. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; LISTEN TO HIM!” So it is God Himself who legitimizes Jesus. God affirms Jesus’ teaching (“listen to him”), but also identifies the intimate bond that joins them (“my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”)
Taken all together, our three readings seem out of place for Lent. They do not speak of penance or sorrow. What they do affirm is God’s KINDNESS – a kindness that God gives to us despite our unworthiness. But such a special insight into this KINDNESS makes us want to repent and amend or change our lives. We too may want to stay on the mountain and enjoy the experience of God’s grace. However, as St. Paul reminds us, God has “called us to a holy life.” Our call, our vocation is to descend from this moment on the high mountain and return and follow God’s call, like Abram did, and venture into new and unknown territory but now filled with grace and holiness. This is our call.
When I was a child, for us Lent was a time for giving up things. We would give up candy or going to movies and then do penance such as fasting and abstinence. We would set aside time on Fridays to make the Stations of the Cross and set goals for helping others in need during this time.
Lent calls us first and foremost to look and see what God has already done for us. Out of his love for us, God has “called us to a holy life.” Our of love for us, Jesus has “destroyed death and brought life and immortality.” And out of love for us, God sent Jesus, the beloved Son so that we might “listen to Him.” To respond properly to God’s initiative of love we need to transform ourselves. This is how penance enters into the picture. We may have to “give up” something, and it may even demand we take up our cross each day and follow Jesus in the Way of the Cross. But will we – can we – accept such challenges as a response to God’s goodness?
Our Gospel story today ends with Jesus charging his apostles not to tell anyone of what happened on the mountain until He himself is raised from the dead. Between the Transfiguration on the mountain, and his transforming death and resurrection, Jesus lived life in the real world – like us. His was a life of struggle and frustration, not unlike ours. But his was also a life of fidelity in the face of challenge, a life that modeled the “holy life” to which each of us is called. Lent is an opportunity for us to respond each day to that CALL to Holiness and grace.
“May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us.”
Celebrant: When our Redeemer was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, they saw the glory of God on the mountain. Let us seek God’s favor in our prayers.
READER: That holy Church may be turned away from worldly preoccupation to set our eyes on heavenly priorities, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That the leaders of our world may heed the words of the Son, “the beloved,” through whom all war, division and discord can cease, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER That, like Abraham our father in faith, we will not refuse the Lord our God anything he asks of us, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the Elect of our parish community as they continue their Lenten journey towards Baptism and full membership into the Church, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That sinners may not be discouraged by the effort asked of them, if they are to return to the sacramental life of God’s family in this Lenten season, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For protection of all our parishioners from illness, in thanksgiving for those who have been returned home, and for the intentions we carry in our hearts that we remember now in silence. (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Most merciful Father, this season of Lent is a time of grace; favor us with your kindness and mercy especially in these difficult days we face, as we now come before you in humble prayer. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. (all) AMEN.