Second Sunday of Lent: Seeing through the cloud
Today’s readings: Genesis 15, 5-12.17-18; Philippians 3, 17 - 4, 1; Luke 9, 28-36.
Today we are so taken up with what we do, with the turmoil around us, and with caring for ourselves, that it is hard to see any meaning or relevance in St Paul’s words in the second reading that “Our homeland is in heaven”. We seldom have the time or even the freedom to look up and distract ourselves from planet earth.
The Scripture readings on this second Sunday of Lent seek to do this: to make us stop for a moment and try to analyse what exactly is giving meaning to life. ‘Homeland’, the term St Paul uses, means the land where one is born, the land reminiscent of dear memories, the land for which we may often become nostalgic.
Our Lenten journey proceeds by making us think out of the box, exit our ordinariness and go up on the mountain so that we may have a viewpoint on life different from the one we routinely settle down with every day. In the Scriptures, God is always a covenant God, who wants to reassure us, to give us peace of mind and heart, and make us feel safe whatever we go through.
In today’s first reading, what Abraham found most disturbing was “landlessness”. His main concern, as expressed to the Lord, was precisely: “How am I to know that I shall inherit this land?” In like manner, even the three disciples on the mountain with Jesus in the Transfiguration account hastily go for the easy solution by proposing the setting up of three tents. A tent is something transitory, provisional, surely far from a long-term aspiration.
With all we see around us, aspiring to see God’s glory may be the last thing that comes to mind. It may even sound illusory. Religion has been now for too long judged as illusory, as opium, as an escape from the present. Yet, as theologian Henri de Lubac writes in his book The Drama of Atheist Humanism, “it is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organise the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can ultimately only organise it against man.”
Religion is meant to be transfigurative. Looking up does not mean distracting oneself from planet earth. The ‘mountain’ in a religious sense can provide us with the right perspective on life. Religion is the view from the window of life, it is the possibility of seeing God’s glory even in spite of human misery. As St Paul writes to the Philippians: “It is from heaven that comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body”.
Just as God, in the first reading, gave reassurance to Abraham when “terror seized him and when the sun had set and darkness had fallen”, in like manner he can give us reassurance of things we hope for, of things we believe in. But to see all this, to experience this transfiguration already here in daily life, we are invited to let go, to go on the mountain, to break with daily routine and put more rhythm in life.
The secret in all this is in the capacity to stand still and “Listen to him”. To listen we need silence, we need to ponder on what is shaping our hearts and orienting the way we live. As St Paul writes in the letter to the Philippians, we risk becoming truly wretched when, with all that impacts our daily living, we lose connection with the source of our transfiguration; when we settle down for a homeland where we do not really belong; when we spend all that we are and have in a life that is ephemeral.
Faith is not a chimera, a hope or dream that is extremely unlikely ever to come true. There are clouds that obstruct our vision in life, but faith gives us the possibility to see through the cloud.